[Exhibition] Arthur Jafa 'Air Above Mountains, Unknown Pleasures' @ Gavin Brown's Enterprise, NYC

Apex stills mounted on wall

Last Friday I attended the opening of Arthur Jafa's solo exhibition, 'Air Above Mountains, Unknown Pleasures', at Gavin Brown's Enterprise, in Harlem, NYC. An amazing mixed media exhibition, spanning three floors, that includes photography, video and sculpture. The exhibition, as I understood it, acts as a collage of art works from different art series but are put together so seamlessly that a powerful theme/message can easy be seen threading throughout.

If you don't know who Arthur Jafa is he's an artist, director, and the award-winning cinematographer for Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dusk. Though, you may also know his recent work with African American music artists such as Solange Knowles, Lauren Hill and Jay-Z. This oscillation between (high) art and popular culture is possibility what makes Jafa's work so striking as, in essence, he seems to expose the "avant garde" in the everyday, or is it the everyday in the avant garde? More importantly, Jafa's work puts black life in the frame, front and center, exhibiting the good, bad and ugly; black joy, pain and death.

And the 'Air Above Mountains, Unknown Pleasures' exhibition delivers on this, offering its visitors a visual experience that will no doubt induce a wavy of heavy emotions. According to the exhibition's press release, this is Jafa's:

...first solo exhibition in New York City since 2000 Arthur Jafa expansively extends his exploration of ontological Blacknuss* as a generative and pluripontantial phenomenon—one capable of addressing the social stresses weight, fissures and breaks of being Black—and concomitantly, Black Being and Thingification—in the world.

The range of media and sculptural forms utilized in the exhibition builds on Jafa’s ongoing, revelatory pursuit and mastery of lyrical expressive means to represent the recorded presence of shock, horror, trauma, transcendence and transgressive impulses in the history, performance and existential grip, of Blacknuss.

*per reeds man, composer and orator Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s grand rhetorical spelling on his 1972 Atlantic album of the same name.
 

The exhibition is open now but be warned it won't be on for long and Jafa's art is definitely worth experiencing. So, if you're in New York city between now and June 10th and have the time I strongly recommend you visit.
Let us know if you do!


See link for gallery website and press release here


*** 

Opening night party, DJ behind the decks

At the opening night of Arthur Jafa’s, ‘Above the Mountains, Unknown Pleasures’ exhibition at @gavinbrownsenterprise. We got the DJ on the decks, drinks flowing and bodies moving yet I can’t help but wonder what it might mean to be present at a party held in an exhibit of this kind - in front of images of black joy, suffering and death.

If you look closely at my image you’ll see black bodies, the DJ & MC, impervious to their proximity and position to the blown-up photograph behind them showing the lynching of black bodies.
I wonder is this image revealing of black joy as a juxtaposition of black suffering or black joy as that which attempts to obscure (if only for the moment, and never fully) black reality and suffering? 


[Image and text is taken from @GoldieLocs16 Instagram post dated 4/05/18]


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