Artist Arthur Jafa takes an abstract turn in his first new film since his Golden Lion winning project for the Venice Biennale
This weekend, a beloved New York arts institution returned for a night out. On 127th Street, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise reopened for the first time since it closed in the summer of 2020 to present the US debut of artist Arthur Jafa’s new film, AGHDRA (2021).
Although the first floor offered its own emotions – Rirkrit Tiravanija prepared masses of paella for the crowd, followed by a party with several dances between performers – the fourth floor of the space was where the magic really took place. produced.
At this point in Jafa’s career, any new work is something of an event. This film is his first in three years and follows Love is the message, the message is death (2016), which caused a sensation, and The white album (2018), who won the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. He arrived in New York with little fanfare – and no press attention in advance – via an Instagram post on Jafa’s page .
AGDRHA (2021) drastically slows down the artist’s signature rapid-fire collage images set to maximum score, instead calling viewers to lose themselves in a buzzing horizon. Unlike his previous work, his imagery is entirely computer generated, nowhere to be found.
Jafa’s visual language may have shifted to the abstract in this room, but it’s also part of the same conversation he’s had for years. This time, he questions Afrofuturism as the very material that creates the Earth collapses, while recalling the transatlantic slave trade.
Part of the new film, then still in progress, premiered at a MoMA PS1 event in January 2020, and the full version debuted at Jafa’s retrospective at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in last spring. It is on view in New York until December 5.
For 85 minutes, AGHDRA will keep you staring directly at the sun. The computer-generated waves mimic the ocean turned black, the texture of which has alchimized into a material that resembles coal or cooled lava. The sun moves day and night in a toxic haze.
The longer you look, the more you feel your breath contracting. Eventually, the waves rise periodically to block out the sun, which doesn’t quite provide relief, but rather instills a sense of dread. Earlier this year, Jafa foreshadowed AGHDRAthe darker tone of the New York Times, saying: “I am an undertaker. I don’t do the elevation thing.
The film is a notable development for Jafa, who expressed his unease with the way Love is the message, the message is Death, a found media video collage about black lives, has been adopted so enthusiastically by white audiences. (âPeople were getting that eight minute epiphany,â he explained. âEven when people said, ‘Oh, I cried,’ the very cynical part of my brain suspected a kind of stopped empathy. with regard to the black experience. â)
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a coalition of 15 museums looped the film on their websites for an entire weekend, its gripping clips of black triumph and injustice parading across the screens in people’s homes. whole world.
Jafa’s follow-up, white album, brought his crude internet surfing style to Whiteness, juxtaposing clueless YouTube pundits, a sinister paramilitary bloke, and even his former dealer Gavin Brown.
With AGHDRA, Jafa continues to resist easy consumption and easy answers. After 85 minutes of staring at Jafa’s sun, maybe surface fans of his work will come away with a new understanding of what he has to say. But it is clear that they are no longer, and perhaps never have been, the artist’s first audience.
“Arthur Jafa: AGHDRA” is on view at 439 W 127th Street, New York, until December 5th.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news, eye-opening interviews and cutting-edge reviews that keep the conversation going.