Arthur Jafa

Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal
21 Feb 2020 - 21 Jun 2020

Arthur Jafa, Monster (Detail), 1988. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York/Rome.

Arthur Jafa, Monster (Detail), 1988. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York/Rome.

Known as a filmmaker, cinematographer and artist, Arthur Jafa presents in the exhibition the works that he has been making as a visual artist for the past two decades. His solo show at Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal will run from 21 February until 21 June 2020.

In his cinematic work, Jafa makes present the image of African-American identity and culture through a broad spectrum of contemporary footage and found images. He attempts to relay the history of the Afro-American visual aesthetics and help reframe this question in a new context. In his assemblage of fragments of popular icons, major events of the Black history and anonymous bodies in various states of exaltation and despair, Jafa brings a synthesizing view of the American experience of the Black community, while seeking to make visible—or emancipate—the power embedded in modes of African expression with reference points ranging from Fang sculpture to Mississippi juke joints, Duchamp’s urinal to jazz.

A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions, references the feeling of emptiness, which, according to the author, is characteristic of the Black life. The word ‘rendition’ refers to the artist’s interpretation of the aesthetics associated with Black being, which are historically-inscribed in images, objects and artefacts. By re-performing these narratives in the present, Jafa imagines and constructs new possibilities for making them visible. Through the work of three additional voices: the photographer Ming Smith, @nemiepeba—the Instagram feed of artist Frida Orupabo—and content from the YouTube channel of Missylanyus, Jafa created this exhibition for the Museum and CCMO (Cinema House Manoel de Oliveira) spaces, as an audio-visual experience that is both politically reflective and visionary.

Presented in partnership with the Serpentine Galleries, the exhibition is curated by Amira Gad and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

A bilingual POR/ENG catalogue will be published in association with the exhibition. A selection of texts from the Serpentine exhibition catalogue―essays by John Akomfrah, Tina M. Campt, Ernest Hardy and Fred Moten, artist’s writings and a conversation between Jafa and Hans Ulrich Obrist―will be preceded by a new and most comprehensive survey of Jafa’s project by António Preto (director, CCMO, Serralves). Key words and subjects in Preto’s essay are collage as an ontology of Negritude, Black culture’s immaterial expressivity, Black cinema’s and “the empathy muscles” and Jafa’s “worrying images.”

A programme of tours, talks, performance and music accompanies the exhibition.


Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
Rua D. João de Castro, 210
4150–417 Porto




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