Arthur Jafa is a conceptual artist whose body of work considers the conundrum of creating complex personifications of one’s (Black) self while resisting the reductive mechanisms that strive to constrain any non-white (and non-male) subject resistant to privileging hegemonic modes of artists discourse. His work is informed by music, psychoanalytic theory, working class expressivity, image processing, Buddhism, and Black aesthetic, which are taken to be of a whole. As such he seeks to create artifacts equal to the task of embodying the complex array of influences that constitute his (contested) paternity.
Through his visual work, Jafa is simultaneously creating and mapping a space for himself in relation to cultural assumptions concerning identity and race. Jafa endeavors to envision and develop a precise language of a black being while meeting the paradoxical challenge of articulating the sensations in the space of a physical material reality, all in a manner which is both culturally specific and universal. Additionally, he is preoccupied with triggering the formation of mutant strands of cultural discourse: axenzi, superbad behavior, Black abstraction, black white trash.
Citing a desire to create works that are felt, Jafa’s installation at Artpace explores relatively underutilized sensory modes (touch and smell) as privileged means of artistic expressivity. Referencing influences as diverse as Fang sculpture, John Coltrane, John DeLorean, Mississippi jook joints, Miles Davis, Ryoanji gardens, Donald Judd, boliw, Smokey and the Bandit, tantric practices, and Albert Ayler, Jafa’s installation levels and amplifies the process of social being and alienation.