In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Oxossi Ayofemi and Risa Wechsler

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, United States
26 Jul 2018 - 30 Jul 2019

Photo courtesy of Oxossi Ayofemi.

Photo courtesy of Oxossi Ayofemi.

Visual artist Oxossi Ayofemi and her chosen havruta partner, groundbreaking Stanford physicist Risa Wechsler, infuse the concept of dark matter and dark energy with notions of power, blackness, diaspora, economy, and utopian imagination. What if our city and economy were built from a metaphor of abundance instead of scarcity?

Based on the Talmudic study principle of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—In That Case at The CJM encourages learning through fellowship for Bay Area artists, established professionals, museum staff, and the entire CJM community. Capitalizing on the unique Jewish perspective inherent to The Museum, this program takes the practice of havruta and repurposes it for the contemporary art community. Each local artist invited to participate in In That Case is given the opportunity to work with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing. The resulting collaborations are presented in the Sala Webb Education Center.

Oxossi Ayofemi and Risa Wechsler present Black Matter, discussing the nature of the elusive dark matter that fills the universe, as well as notions of presence and absence, and latent abundance in African American culture. Ayofemi’s three experiments in urban space, sound, and movement, is epitomized by local turf dancers, an abandoned site in San Francisco, and Afro Futurist sound.

Cosmic thought in Jewish tradition is juxtaposed with African American radical imaginative work. The exhibition, Black Matter, foregrounds forms of power and energy that are often unrecognized and unseen, but circulate in a state of transformation. The artist’s research includes Black Power, deserts, cities, waterfalls, and break dancing as sources and models of continuous energy.

Black Matter explores the concept of dark matter and dark energy in physics, as a principle resonant with everyday magic in urban space. The havruta dialogue is with cosmologist and physicist Risa Weschler, a specialist in galaxy formation, dark matter and dark energy systems. Weschler is a professor of physics at Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.


Oxossi Ayofemi is an artist inspired by everyday utopian forms. Her works of art are experiences that mingle the senses and cross material with the immaterial. Ayofemi’s current activation of urban economy and urban landscape in Oakland and San Francisco includes temporary rock bands, landscapes, danceworks, quilts, soundscapes, and acts of sustenance and soul food. Ayofemi’s work has been presented by the Kadist Art Foundation, SFMOMA, Southern Exposure, The Carpenter Center, The Wattis Institute, the Asian Art Museum, The New Museum’s New Inc, dOCUMENTA, the British Arts Council, and Chicago’s Rebuild Foundation. Born in Brooklyn and based in California, Ayofemi has an MFA in Studio Art from Stanford University.

Risa Wechsler is a professor of physics at Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a specialist in galaxy formation, dark matter and dark energy systems.


In that Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Supporting sponsorship has been provided by Rosanne and Al Levitt.




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