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May 6, 2021 – June 18 2021
Gladstone 64
The host of unlikely marriages, transposed identities, and disparate doppelgangers that populate Arthur Jafa’s oeuvre come to full clarity in his new body of sculptures. Composed of industrial materials such as rubber tubing, aluminum beams, and steel pipes that are embellished with lengths of fur, chains, feathers and languidly draped bags, these objects reckon with the instrumentalization of the black body while shielding it with sartorial excess. Alluding to what Jafa calls “glamouring,” these sculptures simultaneously reference the burdensome machinations of double consciousness while also contending with the duplicity synonymous with glamour itself. 

As is his custom, Jafa’s use of the term strikes a synchronized (and syncopated) blow. Etymologically drawing from an 18th Century Scotts English word used to describe magical enchantment, glamour is believed to stem from “grammar,” which itself once indicated a relationship between scholarship and the occult. In Jafa’s work, this bifurcated meaning folds back on itself again: the artist’s customary use of visual sequencing in his photographs and films proposes an underlying linguistic structure, while his objects continually reveal a duality in which surface and metaphor collude as accomplices. Glamour, in this case, is the double that is deployed by the self. 

Jafa frequently addresses visual and cultural faux-amis, and his ideas and images ritually masquerade as one another to alchemical affect. The artist’s repeated references to the familiar are also a kind of glamour; they are trap doors, shifts in surface tension, turns of face that occur too spectacularly to be identified with vision alone.