PRINT July/August 2020


Ja’Tovia Gary, Citational Ethics (Saidiya Hartman, 2017), 2020, neon, glass, wire, metal, 47 × 47 × 6".

THROUGHOUT MY LIFE AS AN ARTIST, there has been space created for me, opportunities offered up generously. Curators, teachers, fellow artists, writers, and thinkers I admire have all gone out of their way to make room for me and my work. The generosity and place making they modeled are what I hope to offer up here. During moments of extreme collective precariousness, I find it necessary to centralize and give a platform to the voices, imaginations, and concerns of those who wrestle with precarity every day. Artforum’s invitation to contribute an artist’s project serves as my opportunity to introduce its readers to some of the powerfully talented and deeply imaginative Black women artists with whom I’m fortunate enough to share space. Some are old friends I’ve known for years, others acquaintances whom I admire from afar. Perhaps we’ve met at an opening or shared a quick exchange on the street, but their art, rigor, and ethos have stayed with me, influenced and inspired me.

Black women’s distinct positionality in society necessitates a sharp and critical lens. We are uniquely equipped to name the myriad forms of violence the system metes out. Our leadership, criticality, and insight should be at the fore not simply during moments of crisis but as we move beyond the current social formations, which are crumbling before our very eyes, and begin to conceive and prefigure new frameworks for community and cooperation. Oftentimes, Black women find ourselves at the vanguard whether or not that is our preferred position. Our ways of being, knowing, and seeing have shaped what we know of history and will be absolutely integral as we work to conceptualize and bring forth a more egalitarian future free from bondage and subjugation. The wild imaginings and quiet interiors of our lives drive my creative practice and experimental impulses. The five women presented here—Eniola Dawodu, Oroma Elewa, Jazmine Hayes, Fatima Jamal, and Sydney Vernon—add much to the robust conversation being had by many Black women artists and writers across the globe. Their excursions, and mine, are just beginning.

Ja’Tovia Gary