Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility

Exhibition Website

Oct 20 2023 - Apr 7 2024

Guggenheim Museum

New York City, NY

Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility is a major exhibition that brings together a multigenerational group of artists who engage the “semi-visible” figure—representations that are partially obscured, including, in some cases, literally darkened. In its inherent tension between clarity and occlusion, the semi-visible figure is a site of great material complexity and experimentation.  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.

Artists in the show articulate going dark by way of formal strategies that may include literal darkening methods like shadowing; rotating the body; novel materials and printing methods; and postproduction tools that blur or brighten. Some of the most recent works that will be on view draw upon 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 also obscure optical perception, challenging the very biology of vision.​

This exhibition suggests that the concept of “going dark” is a tool used by artists to reflect enduring and urgent questions surrounding both the potential and the discontents of social visibility. Across media—painting, photography, sculpture, video, and installation—Going Dark names, charts, and makes meaning of the semi-visible figure, arguing for its significance in contemporary art as a genre of unique conceptual and formal power. 

Occupying 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.

This exhibition will include works by the following artists: American Artist, Kevin Beasley, Rebecca Belmore, Dawoud Bey, John Edmonds, Ellen Gallagher, David Hammons, Lyle Ashton Harris, Tomashi Jackson, Titus Kaphar, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Joiri Minaya, Sandra Mujinga, Chris Ofili, Sondra Perry, Farah Al Qasimi, Faith Ringgold, Doris Salcedo, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, Sable Elyse Smith, Stephanie Syjuco, Hank Willis Thomas, WangShui, Carrie Mae Weems, and Charles White.

Credit: Overview from museum website

Image: Installation view

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