Sandra Mujinga, Spectral Keepers, 2020.Private collection. © Sandra Mujinga. Photo: Plastiques, courtesy of the artist and The Approach, London.

“Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility”
October 20th, 2023 to April 7th, 2024

The Solomon R. Gugenheim Musuem
1071 5th Avem New York, NY 10128

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City is set to present the “Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility” exhibition beginning on October 20th. The exhibit will run until April 7th, 2024.

This expansive exhibition will showcase multigenerational artists from diverse racial backgrounds who explore critical uncertainties regarding the meaning of being visible, invisible and cut out from society through innovative experimentation of the figure. The exhibition, featuring twenty-eight artists and filling all six ramps of the Guggenheim’s rotunda, is based on a dual concept: artworks that display the figure but conceal it to some extent, positioning it at the “edge of visibility.”

The artists in the exhibition employ various techniques to “go dark.” These methods include using shadows or lighting effects, paint choices, obscuring or inverting the body, and post-production methods like “chroma-keying.” The concept of ‘Going Dark’ implies that these treatments of the figure address critical debates about visibility in a societal setting: the nuances of being invisible or overly visible in both public and private arenas, within institutions, the archives of (art) history, mainstream media, social platforms, and beyond. By unveiling and hiding the figure, ‘Going Dark’ delves into the pivotal tension in portrayal: the simultaneous longing to be visible and the wish to be concealed, especially as advancements in technology present increased opportunities for exposure, accompanied by its inherent risks.

Lorna Simpson, Double Negative, 1990–2022. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. © Lorna Simpson. Photo: James Wang.

‘Going Dark’ features over 100 works of art by a multigenerational, multiracial group of artists, the majority of whom are Black and more than half of whom are women. The show proceeds chronologically, from the mid-1980s with paintings and photographs by Kerry James Marshall, Lorna Simpson, and Ming Smith, through to the present, with photography, sculpture, and video works by Sandra Mujinga, Sondra Perry, Stephanie Syjuco, and others. Artworks by David Hammons, Faith Ringgold, and Charles White from the late 1960s to the early 1970s also provide historical context for the modern narrative showcased in this exhibition. Tiona Nekkia McClodden and WangShui will debut new paintings, and American Artist will present a new site-specific installation.

While concentrating on the societal aspects of visibility, “Going Dark” presumes that this “semi-visible” portrayal holds considerable art historical value, influencing discussions on modernism and monochromatic art. The pieces in the exhibition seamlessly transition between representational and abstract forms, thereby diminishing the distinction within this traditional binary frame. Understanding the need for innovative resources, tools, and techniques when creating art on the fringes of visibility, numerous artists in ‘Going Dark’ ingeniously modify color and light, mixing societal and visual discernment and questioning the fundamental mechanics of our vision.

John Edmonds, Untitled (Hood 13), 2018. Collection of the artist. © John Edmonds. Photo: Courtesy John Edmonds Studio.

“Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility” is organized by Ashley James, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, with Faith Hunter, Curatorial Assistant.  The artists to be featured in the exhibition include: American Artist, Kevin Beasley, Rebecca Belmore, Dawoud Bey, John Edmonds, Ellen Gallagher, David Hammons, Lyle Ashton Harris, Tomashi Jackson, Titus Kaphar, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Tiona Nekkia McLodden, Jori Minaya, Sandra Mujinga, Chris Ofili, Sondra Perry, Farah Al Qasimi, Faith Ringgold, Doris Salcedo, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, Sable Elyse Smith, Stephanie Syjuco, Hank Willis Thomas, WangShui, Carrie Mae Weems and Charles White. 

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