Contrast and conflict are undeniably effective at capturing an audience's attention. These elements are present in our everyday lives, which contemporary works of art seek to represent in clever ways. Clashes between light and shadow can mistakenly reflect binary notions of good versus evil when it comes to being seen and perceived.

"Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility" draws attention to the complicated places that Black communities and other visible minorities occupy in society, both past and present. Curated by Dr. Ashley James, the exhibition occupied all six levels of the Guggenheim Museum's spiral rotunda and features over 100 works by 28 artists, many of whom are Black women.

 Many works featured subjects "at the edge of visibility" to convey the conflicting desire to be seen and acknowledged but not so much that it puts them in harm's way. By raising awareness about long-standing issues of anti-Black racism, this theme reflects the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Reduced Inequalities.

In her recent interview with The Cut, James explains, "The show takes on many aspects of visibility across the spectrum—from something quite specific to Black women and the sense of a double marginalization that comes with race and gender."

Lorna Simpson's Time Piece is a prime example of this double marginalization. A Black woman with her back turned to the camera is shown four times. She is visible but not completely. More precise, however, are the listed descriptions that mark the deaths of Black individuals with corresponding times. The fact that these dates are close together reveals how these tragedies are a regular part of their reality.

Lorna Simpson, Time Piece, 1990. Photo by Zier Zhou/Arts Help.

Issues surrounding Black visibility can be found in every corner of society, even in the world of music and popular culture. In Slow Fade to Black II, Carrie Mae Weems blurred the photographs of famous stars of the 20th century, including Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone. Her editing choice reflects a sense of dissatisfaction with how these women may have been underrecognized or overlooked, especially relative to their white counterparts.

Carrie Mae Weems, Slow Fade to Black II, 2009-10. Photo by Zier Zhou/Arts Help.

 Another striking work by Weems with a similar style is Repeating the Obvious. Taken during the Black Lives Matter movement, the image of a young Black man wearing a hoodie is reproduced in different dimensions to cover an entire wall. The dark background and blurred figure make him difficult to identify, which speaks to the dehumanizing treatment of countless individuals who look like him.

Carrie Mae Weems, Repeating the Obvious, 2019. Photo by Zier Zhou/Arts Help.

The works above are only snapshots of the exhibit, which further comprises an eclectic and eye-opening collection of illustrations and installations. Each piece makes a statement about visibility in art and society through various techniques. Whether by casting shadows, blurring subjects, or adding repetition, Black artists are granted space to share their unique experiences and interpretations of being partially seen and what that means.

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