The Black Era: Joel Andrianomearisoa / Abdoulaye Konatè / Gary Simmons / Rashid Johnson / Theaster Gates

Press release

«The color is flowchart of social and mental life, it articulates space and time, coordinating and creating systems of knowledge. The color is an art of memory. But an art of memory which differs from a society to another, which is transformed over time» 


~ M. Pastoreau ,“Couleurs, Images”


This monumental exhibition will be a dialogue between five artists, some Africans and some Afro-Americans, focused on the use of blackness as an allusion to an anticipatory artistic model able to destroy the patterns. Through the extremism in their artistic practices, subvert the system and open new directions for the future of art. 


Black is central.

Black and white paintings, black and white photographs, black and white texts. 

Black and white as polar opposite, black and white as indissoluble pair.

White without black cannot exists. 

There’s no dark without light. 

There’s no day without night.

Black as backdrop, black as fulcrum. 

Black as metaphor.

Black as culture, black as identity, black as color, 

Black as visceral and necessary critique, 

Black as understanding of race, black as experience, 

Black as exclusion and inclusion.

Black as history, black as present.



In this exhibition we want to underline how contemporary artists are approaching this Black Era. How they represent this time and how they deal with the present and the past, reconstructing a new system of knowledge, how they complicate the ancient system.

How they want to overthrow the paradigms and complicate them to allow the human being to be more critical, more attentive, more thoughtful about a possible unpredictable and reinvented future.


In the present days, we are still submerged by different way of reacting to black, the history brings weights and implications over it. The artists in this exhibition takes upon their shoulders this past to rewrite and overwrite clichés, assumptions, cultural inheritance and privileges to reconfigure a new imagery with a new way of thinking.


In Africa the colour is a religious symbol, full of significances and power. For the Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté the antithesis of black and white, is darkness and light, is absence and knowledge, is earth and sky. «Different dyeing as medium for knowing the other and for acting on him. The colours have the role of enhance the energy or power of either textile and individual». 

In Africa white is the colour of the dead, but his function is to “defy” death, a good omen.  Black is the chaos, is the origin, but being origin means being cradle of generation, cradle of possibilities, nest of fertility.  Rather than evading from the African colourism, Abdoulaye Konaté blissfully embraces this world pigmentation, unveiling for us a wide Baudelairian universe. The syncretism of symbols, the disclosed synesthesia, the unwavering chromatic seduction, all competing in a playful experience for the spectator, bringing him in a textile world full of allegories related by materials, density of colours, rhythm and vital impulses.  

Colours redetermine a new utopian space, where opposing emotions confuse themselves in a harmony of opposite, an abstract symphony that possess «the diffusion of infinite things». 


For the Malagasy artist Joël Andrianomearisoa the colors take on a symbolic value (“white is presence, black is mystery”), the shades of black are the expression of a polyphony that far from being minimalist, it conveys emotions, an aesthetic pleasure, a sense of fragility and mystery.


Je ai oublié la nuit dans l’attente du 7e jour qui nous reunirà le temps d’une 

rencontre ou pour toujours ... baiser blanc pour les désirs noirs” (J. A.)


We want also to underline how photography, especially black and white photography, is and has been a medium that connected many of these artists, consciously or not.


Artists as Theaster Gates explored in different ways the photographic imagery of black. Let only think about the exhibition he conceived for Fondazione Prada in 2018- 2019 “The Black Image Corporation”, where he explored the fundamental legacy of Johnson Publishing Company which have contributed to shape the aesthetic and cultural heritage of the contemporary African American identity.

Or think about his exhibition in Basel “Black Madonna”, where he examined its significance in the history of religion and its aesthetic and metaphorical tenor.


About Gary Simmons, which ghostly paintings often offer us a dark background or black and partly erased texts, Gwen Allen, a professor of art history at San Francisco State University, states:

Far from suggesting that we are beyond race, [Simmons] insists on [race’s] unresolved nature, encouraging us to think critically and expansively about the way race informs both our current reality and the state that we are striving toward. [...] Simmons does not ignore the deeply troubling past of race; as his erasure drawings so insistently demonstrate, history is not a blank slate. Yet while he acknowledges history’s weight upon the present, he renders its meaning and possibilities unpredictable and open-ended, ready to be seized upon, reimagined, reinvented.


Rashid Johnson artworks speak to collective and individual identities caught in the midst of shifting social realities: dreams of escaping toward a romantic paradise, an otherworldly realm free of social and economic inequality, but at the same time, with his frenetic scratching into black wax, cracking tiles and covering areas in graffiti, he stuck his works in a dystopian here and now.

Installation Views