For three decades artist, filmmaker, and cinematographer Arthur Jafa has boldly explored the relationship between visual culture and blackness in his works. Often drawing content from an archive of images and video clips culled from popular magazines, books, media, and digital platforms like YouTube, Jafa embraces a complex approach to authorship and legitimacy. In the video and installation works he creates, he seeks to, in his own words, “make black cinema with the power, beauty, and alienation of black music.”
A dynamic standing cutout image of the comic book character the Incredible Hulk rendered at human scale, LeRage (2017) is a kind of self-portrait. This work builds on Jafa’s childhood fascination with science fiction films, comics, and fanzines while exploring his complex identification with the characters that inhabit them. Jafa’s version of the iconic Marvel Comics character renders the distinctive fluorescent-green skin in a dark grayscale; the alteration is a powerful commentary on gender, blackness, and cultural perception. For LeRage, as is often the case in Jafa’s works, the artist uses strategies like montage and appropriation to present the complexities of the black experience and black representation.
Arthur Jafa (b. 1960, Tupelo, Mississippi) has exhibited his work at film festivals and art institutions worldwide. He has been honored with solo exhibitions at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Quebec (2020); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2020); Palazzo Madama, Turin (2019); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2019); and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2018), among others. He has participated in various group exhibitions, including shows at the Punta della Dogana, Venice (2020); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2018). Jafa received the Golden Lion Award at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) as well as the Best Documentary Feature for his film Dreams are Colder than Death (2014) at the BlackStar Film Festival, Philadelphia. He also directed the videos for Solange Knowles’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky” (both 2016) and Jay-Z’s “4:44” (2017).