Cosmic thought in Jewish tradition is juxtaposed with African-American radical imaginative work in the “Black Matter” exhibition at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum.
Based on the Talmudic study principle of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—the CJM encourages learning through fellowship for Bay Area artists, established professionals, museum staff, and the entire CJM community.
Capitalizing on the unique Jewish perspective inherent to the museum, this program takes the practice of havruta and repurposes it for the contemporary art community. Each local artist invited to participate is given the opportunity to work with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing. The resulting collaborations are presented in the museum’s Sala Webb Education Center.
Visual artist Oxossi Ayofemi and her chosen havruta partner, groundbreaking Stanford physicist Risa Wechsler, present Black Matter, discussing the nature of the elusive dark matter that fills the universe, as well as notions of presence and absence, and latent abundance in African American culture. Ayofemi’s three experiments in urban space, sound, and movement, is epitomized by local turf dancers, an abandoned site in San Francisco, and Afro Futurist sound.
Black Matter explores the concept of dark matter and dark energy in physics, as a principle resonant with everyday magic in urban space. The havruta dialogue is with Risa Wechsler. Risa Wechsler is a cosmologist, a professor of physics at Stanford and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and a member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. Wechsler is drawn to cosmology because it seeks to answer questions about our existence on the largest scales: What is the Universe made of and why? How did our galaxy and other galaxies come into being? How has the Universe developed over the past 14 billion years?
The exhibition foregrounds forms of power and energy that are often unrecognized and unseen, but circulate in a state of transformation. The artist’s research includes Black Power, deserts, cities, waterfalls, and break dancing as sources and models of continuous energy.
Contemporary Jewish Museum 736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. 415.655.7800