Art in the Diaspora

Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility is Now Open at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York

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On the 20th of October 2023, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York opened the exhibition Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility and this will be on until the 7th of April 2024. This is a group exhibition presenting works of art that feature partially obscured or hidden figures, positioning these figures at the “edge of visibility.” In this art context, the common phrase going dark is understood as a tactic whereby artists visually conceal the body to explore a key tension in contemporary society: the desire to be seen and the desire to be hidden from sight. 

Image courtesy of Ashley James’ Instagram

The artists articulate going dark differently but some of the common ways include literal darkening methods like shadowing; rotating the body; novel materials and printing methods; and postproduction tools that blur or brighten. Some of the works draw on digital technology, such as the chroma-key green (or blue) screen. These works move fluidly between figuration and abstraction, and many of the artists inventively manipulate color and light to obscure optical perception, challenging the very biology of vision.

Spectral Keepers, 2020. Tulle fabric, cotton fabric, nylon thread, threaded rods, wire clamps, and cellular concrete, four figures, 278 × 80 × 40 cm each; four baskets 77 × 77 × 97 cm each, Image courtesy of artist’s Instagram

Displayed in the Guggenheim Museum’s iconic rotunda, Going Dark presents more than 100 works by a group of 28 artists, the majority of whom are Black and more than half of whom are women. While most of the works date from the 1980s to the present, a selection of them were created in the 1960s and ’70s by three iconic artists—David Hammons, Faith Ringgold, and Charles White—suggesting that the development of Conceptual art during these decades launched new pathways of expression that laid the groundwork for contemporary artists tackling the “edge of visibility” today. Above is a piece by Congolese-Norwegian artist Sandra Mujinga whose work is inspired by her African childhood in Norway, a country which despite its colonial history has minimal African descents. Below is a piece by Joiri Minaya and it is inspired by the duality in the gestures we make. In this piece the subject is putting the garment on and taking it off at the same time. It is also confrontational in the sense that the subject is looking at the viewer and knows that the viewer is looking at them back.

Irreducible Convergence, 2020, Inkjet print, 152.4 x 101.6 cm, Image courtesy of Guggenheim’s website

Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility is organised by Ashley James who is an Associate Curator at Guggenheim in collaboration with Curatorial Assistant Faith Hunter. The exhibition is grateful to the following for their financial contribution in making the exhibition a success: the Leadership Committee; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Henry Luce Foundation; The Kate Cassidy Foundation; The Mondriaan Fund; The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation; and Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York. Additional funding is provided by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Photography Council and Young Collectors Council.


Lelethu Sobekwa was born in Gqeberha, South Africa. She holds a BA Honours in English and an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from Rhodes University. Lelethu currently writes for Art News Africa.

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