TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2022

TOP TEN

Huey Copeland is BFC Presidential Associate Professor of Modern Art and Black Study at the University of Pennsylvania and a contributing editor of Artforum. His new book, the anthology Black Modernisms in the Transatlantic World, coedited with Steven Nelson, dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, will be published next year by the National Gallery of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

Cover of the 2022 edition of Saidiya Hartman’s 1997 Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America  (W. W. Norton, 2022).

1
SAIDIYA HARTMAN, SCENES OF SUBJECTION (25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION)

Hartman’s 1997 debut launched a thousand Afro-Pessimist ships and provided fertile ground for new flights of Black feminist imagination; in the process, Scenes fundamentally challenged both the projects and the objects of critical theory and historical praxis in the United States. The twenty-fifth-anniversary edition of this classic includes a foreword by political theorist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an afterword by scholars Marisa J. Fuentes and Sarah Haley, and a brilliant new preface by Hartman, “The Hold of Slavery,” which emphasizes the radicality of her reckoning with the afterlives of the “peculiar institution” as well as her commitment to Black radical praxis in the present. Accordingly, the volume features stunning interventions by artists Torkwase Dyson and Cameron Rowland that extend Hartman’s meditations on opacity and annotation while making the book’s central preoccupations visually manifest for a whole new cadre of readers: Even in the space of social death, we learn, “BLACK ANTAGONISM” is alive and well.

2
NICK CAVE (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, CHICAGO; CURATED BY NAOMI BECKWITH)

Simply put, one of the best midcareer retrospectives I’ve ever had the chance to see. Beckwith’s magisterial curation provides not only fresh insight into Cave’s origins and obsessions but also a master class in how to reframe physical space to maximize viewers’ experience of works that are spectacular from any vantage but reward close-up haptic encounters.

On view through April 10, 2023.

View of “Nick Cave: Forothermore,” 2022–23, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Photo: Nathan Keay.

3
VACCINES!

Ummm . . . do I really need to make the case here?

Covid-19 vaccination, Bangkok, May 3, 2020. Photo: Mongkolchon Akesin/Shutterstock.

4
ELLA MAI, “HOW” (FEAT. RODDY RICCH) (10 SUMMERS/INTERSCOPE)

As a fan of contemporary R&B—let SZA tell it on the mountain!—I know that the kids these days don’t have it easy, especially when it comes to the challenges Black fems face in attempting to figure body, sex, self, and relation within an image-obsessed and troll-filled digital culture. Mai’s soulful yet catchy summer jam “How,” featuring wunderkind Roddy Ricch, puts self-care above recrimination in post-breakup lyrics that serve as an affective reminder for the age: “What’s the risk it happened? Rollin’ with myself / I got too attached, now I’m workin’ on my health. . . . / Now I’m, I’m in my ride / It’s me, myself, and time / This what it takes to break a heartache.”

Still from Ella Mai’s 2022 video How, featuring Roddy Ricch, directed by Colin Tilley. Ella Mai.

5
HALORES (CHARACTER IN WESTWORLD [2016–])

Westworld—the HBO show about talking commodities (hosts) who rise up to take vengeance on their (human) creators—has always had a particular resonance for me, the descendant of objects of property my-self. With Halores, a “Black female” host played by Tessa Thompson, the series’ creators not only surface how racial slavery haunts their fictional world as much as our own, they also give us an ethically complicated figure who is always worth rooting for no matter how ruthless her actions may seem.

Westworld, 2016–, production still from a TV show on HBO. Season 3, episode 3, “The Absence of Field.” Charlotte Hale/Halores (Tessa Thompson). Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO.

6
ADAM PENDLETON, RUBY NELL SALES (WHITNEY BIENNIAL)

Among the handful of longer-form works in David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards’s “splendrous” Whitney Biennial—think of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s mesmerizing film What About China?—I found myself most enthralled by Pendleton’s 2020–22 video of Black feminist writer, thinker, and activist Ruby Nell Sales. As in all the artist’s entries in his ongoing series of video portraits, the camerawork is close and particular, here almost scaled to its protagonist’s face, whose visage becomes a scrim on which to track the alternative futures her voice and writing at once summon up and hold out.

Adam Pendleton, Ruby Nell Sales, 2020–22, HD video, color and black-and-white, sound, 61 minutes 3 seconds.

7
CHARLOTTE ADIGÉRY AND BOLIS PUPUL, TOPICAL DANCER (DEEWEE)

“I wouldn’t have made it this far without you (oh, thank you) / Yeah, you see my true potential (oh, thank you) / And you discovered me, right? (oh, thank you) / You’re the Columbus to my America (oh, thank you).” Actually, thank Grace: I had the pleasure of taking in Adigéry and Pupul’s criminally short opening set for Ms. Jones at the Hollywood Bowl in September. I’ve been listening to the Belgian dance-pop duo’s LP pretty much nonstop ever since, moved by their irresistible rhythms and entertained by Adigéry’s sarcastic takes on life lived Black, female, and quasi-famous in a ruthlessly networked yet reliably xenophobic world.

Still from Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul’s 2021 video Blenda, directed by Bob Jeusette.

8
“TONI MORRISON’S BLACK BOOK” (DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK; CURATED BY HILTON ALS)

This expansive show offered rich angles of entry into and poignant engagements with Morrison in her varied roles as editor, writer, organizer, and visual thinker. Refusing any claims to mastery and suffused with affect, this exhibition testified to the urgency and necessity of Als’s inimitable curatorial vision.

View of “Toni Morrison’s Black Book,” 2022, David Zwirner, New York.

9
YELLOWJACKETS (SHOWTIME)

Ridiculously thrilling and highly addictive, this series cannily revisits the pop culture of the 1990s—grunge, flannel, The Craft, and Christina Ricci, oh my!—to render the creepy, barely concealed underside of neoliberal multiculturalism and its haunting of the present. Get into it!

Yellowjackets, 2021–, production still from a TV show on Showtime. Season 1, episode 9, “Doomcoming.” Lottie (Courtney Eaton) and Shauna (Sophie Nélisse). Photo: Kailey Schwerman/Showtime.

10
JUICE JAWNS

There are many things I’ve come to love about Philadelphia—cheesesteaks from Dalessandros, walks along the Wissahickon, the Cézannes at the Barnes Foundation, and so many of the other usual suspects. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of Black women–owned businesses, especially fresh-juice spots, located in the northwest corner of town. Whether it’s a stand on Germantown Avenue or a storefront in Mount Airy—the Juice Room’s green pinada is my go-to—the sisters keep it fresh, healthy, and delicious!

The Juice Room, Philadelphia, December 17, 2020.