Selling the Shadow is an international, cross disciplinary presentation that examines the relationship between art and social practise through paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, video and site specific installation by more than a dozen artists from across Africa and the Diaspora.
The exhibition is thematically based on nineteenth century Black American abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s (c.1797 – 1870) carte-de-visite, a 2 1/2 x 4 inch photograph mounted on thick card stock commonly traded or sold from its height of popularity in 1859 through to the early 1900s. Along with a portrait of herself with personal effects, Truth’s multiple cartes contained the text “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance”. Scholarship around this extraordinary archival image speaks to Truth’s sale of her likeness as a means for funding her anti-slavery and women’s rights activism.
When looked at through an art historical lens Truth’s engagement with the medium of photography is regarded as a pioneering effort to claim and control her own image at a time when the political climate (The United States Civil War, 1860-1865) would benefit from an alternate presentation of a black (woman’s) body. Truth understood then, as many of the artists within this exhibition do now, that there is tremendous power in visual imagery and myth making. As such there is a long standing legacy of the use of fine art as a means for promoting political agendas. With that said there has also been a counter action. Many artists deliberately resist the tendency to overtly conflate art and activism.
Selling the Shadow examines the tension between these two approaches. While vastly different in their personal narratives and method of art making, what each of those presented share is the experience of being contemporary artists of color who grapple with the role identity, history, and geography play in not only the creation of, but also in the consumption and comodification of their work.
Selling the Shadow is the first of a two part exhibition organized by artist Ayana V Jackson with curatorial support from Detroit based artist/curator Ingrid LaFleur and the Gallery MOMO team.
Jessica Wimbley, Americana, 1:00 min | Endia Beal, Office Scene, 2013, 3:31 mins | Lauren Kelley, Wild Seed, 2008, 1:28 mins and True Falsetto, 2011, 2:16 mins | Simone Leigh, Aluminum, 2016, 8:08 mins | Michèle Magema, Derrière la Mer, 5:21 mins | Jefferson Pinder, Overture: Star of Ethiopia, 2013, 8:07 mins | Amir George, The Encompassed Wisdom of the Inevitable Manifestation, 2016, 1:04 mins | Derrick Adams, Jesus Piece, 2014, 2:38 mins | Tabita Rezaire, Hoetep Blessings, 2016, 12:27 mins