Transfiguration: A Black Speculative Vision of Freedom
Since the debut of Marvel’s Black Panther (2018), the focus on Afrofuturism in the United States has skyrocketed. This focus, however, fails to fully understand the scope, complexity, and significance of Afrofuturism. Mark Dery, American author, lecturer and cultural critic, defined the term in 1994 in an attempt to understand why African Americans did not engage with science fiction. Dery’s assertion that Black people have “other stories to tell about culture, technology, and things to come” can be seen in the vibrant visual culture linked to Black speculative art.
Afrofuturism embraces utopic spaces where equality is valued and realized. According to Reynaldo Anderson, founder of Black Speculative Arts Movement, this aesthetic practice integrates Afrodiasporic and African metaphysics with science or technology and seeks to interpret, engage, design, or alter reality for the re-imagination of the past, the contested present, and act as a catalyst for the future.
Curated by Julian C. Chambliss, English professor, Michigan State University, “Transfiguration: A Black Speculative Vision of Freedom,” spotlights how visual narrative at the heart of Afrofuturist practice is part of a longer Black speculative tradition. Black speculative thought, with significant roots in 19th-century literature, works against anti-Blackness and imagines a space devoid of colonial frameworks and systemic racism. “Transfiguration,” on view Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 – Sunday, Apr. 25, 2021, takes up the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that Black visions of freedom strive for a better future. The contemporary artists featured in this exhibition engage with the theme central to King’s legacy, offering visions of freedom across genre and circumstance.
“Afrofuturism has global impact. Although it is currently a popular state of inquiry, its historic threads and international implications are manifold. This exhibition brings together a group of artists informed by comics, graphic design, artist’s books and graphic novels, to inspire further investigation and understanding of Black speculative thought,” said Amy Galpin, chief curator, Frost Art Museum.
The exhibition is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Exhibition Series, which addresses issues of race, diversity, social justice, civil rights, and humanity to serve as a catalyst for dialogue and to enrich the community with new perspectives. To learn more about FIU’s Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration please click here.
Don't miss the virtual opening event Thursday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m. at the Frost Art Museum FIU. To register, visit https://fiu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_andW9XaZRp2CkJjnMy9s5Q.
Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display: Roberto Obregón Archive from the Carolina and Fernando Eseverri Collection
“Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display” - on view, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021 — Sunday, May 16, 2021 - features the innovative work of the late Venezuelan artist Roberto Obregón (1946–2003), a key figure in global conceptualism. This exhibition is curated by Jesús Fuenmayor, visiting curator and University Galleries program director at the University of Florida , and Kaira M. Cabañas, professor of art history at the School of Art and Art History.
Conceptual art emerged as a movement in the 1960s and was based on the premise that the idea (or concept) behind the work is more important than the work itself. The primary motif in Obregón’s body of work is the concept of cyclical time and the physical, bodily decay of roses.
For 30 years, Obregón produced more than a thousand works related to the rose, but he dismantled its kitsch aesthetic and introduced a pseudo-scientific approach to the flower. Inspired by time-lapse photography, Obregón began by carefully observing the rose samples he assembled, capturing a rose’s decay across a sequence of images. He also preserved the roses, dissected each, glued the petals to paper, and organized them in meticulously numbered arrangements. For some works, he used real petals and at other times he made watercolor copies or petal cutouts from a range of materials.
The exhibition is drawn from the artist’s extensive archive that is now part of the Carolina and Fernando Eseverri Collection in Caracas, Venezuela. Included are drawings, sketches, collages, photographs and other objects. Throughout the exhibition, custom-made display cabinets offer a rare view into an artist’s vision and how it relates to archival practices. “Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display” marks the first solo exhibition at an arts institution for Obregón and the first time his archive constitutes the main subject of an exhibition.
“Roberto Obregón is a key figure in the history of conceptual art, well recognized in his home country of Venezuela but not yet in the United States. This exhibition highlights the blindered approach to art history which only now is opening up to the globalism of artists and movements that tie together countries throughout the world. We look forward to our visitors’ responses to Obregón’s archives, which provide an insider’s view to the artist’s creative process around the symbolism of the rose,” said Frost Art museum Director Jordana Pomeroy.