Black Light draws its title from a series of paintings created by the artist Faith Ringgold during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s (Black Light, 1967-71). The exhibition considers the powerful ways in which black artists continue to promote the visibility of black cultural producers and contest structural racism. Experimental in nature, the exhibition focuses not on the assembly of artworks or objects, but on a series of events. These events, produced in collaboration with black artists, activists, scholars and organizers of galleries or museums, constitute the show: a forum for conversations that address the relationship between black artists and cultural institutions. It is the result of a commitment to providing a space for exchange among artists and audience; in collaboration as much as curating; and a desire to engage with conversations taking place right now.
Focusing on how artistic practice can fundamentally reconceptualize institutions, the exhibition addresses a series of questions: What spaces for agency are available to black artists today, and by what means have they produced spaces for themselves? What models does history offer artists working now? What role do institutions play? How do communities make themselves visible? Can artists dream the sociopolitical landscape differently, and what forms does this dreaming take?
A single painting by artist Rodney McMillian, red dust between (2017), anchors the space. The artist’s use of a discarded bed sheet as canvas evokes narratives of destruction, reclamation, sleep, and dreams, and in this way suggests a range of responses to the complexities of our current political landscape.
Black Light was originally organized by the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts and exhibited at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in the Spring of 2017.