Living Just Enough

6 October - 19 November 2020

Sonia Boyce, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Leonardo Drew, Nicholas Galanin, Arthur Jafa, Grada Kilomba, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Lorraine O’Grady, Thomas J. Price, Tabita Rezaire, Faith Ringgold, Hank Willis Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems and Fred Wilson

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty

He spends his life walkin’ the streets of New York city

He’s almost dead from breathin’ in air pollution

He tried to vote but to him there’s no solution

Living just enough, just enough for the city

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow

And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow

This place is cruel nowhere could be much colder

If we don’t change the world will soon be over

Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city

Stevie Wonder, Living for the City, 1974

Goodman Gallery presents Living Just Enough, an exhibition which seeks to acknowledge and contextualise the current global reckoning with white supremacy and structural racism led by the Black Lives Matter movement.

The exhibition takes its title from a refrain in Stevie Wonder’s 1974 hit “Living for the City”. The song tells the story of a young Black man who moves to New York from Mississippi and his experiences of hardships born of systemic racism. These difficulties reflect challenges faced by black people around the world, which continue unabated to this day. 

Living Just Enough features work by artists of varying generations who respond to these conditions from historic perspectives and in relation to the current global moment - a state of deepened rupture exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The diverse practices of each artist intersect with different forms of activism which oppose gender based violence, homophobia, transphobia and the erasure of the culture of indigenous peoples.

Through these intergenerational voices, the exhibition seeks to further conversations about the continuities and discontinuities that characterise the struggles of respective eras. Represented here are various collectives of Black artists whose work has redefined representation in the global art world. These include the US Civil Rights-era Black Arts Movement of which Faith Ringgold was associated; Fred Wilson and Lorraine O’Grady, who were part of the JAM (Just Above Midtown) laboratory artists of 1970s New York; Sonia Boyce, a member of the British Black Arts movement who articulated the voices of Black artists in the turbulent 1980s and the young South African collective NTU, which was formed in 2015 and includes artists Nolan Oswald Dennis and Tabita Rezaire.

Several visual threads run through the exhibition, connecting practices across time and space. One such thread is that of the political poster: while Faith Ringgold’s iconic 1970s work Woman Free Yourself reflects her Black Feminist politics of the time, Carrie Mae Weems’s Take 6 poster project seeks to spread awareness about the effect of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities today. Kudzanai Chiurai’s To Walk Barefoot (2020) painting is a pastiche and homage to posters generated for the purpose of inciting political action during Zimbabwe’s turbulent 1970s. Hank Willis Thomas’s work, Give Us Back our Parents (2018) also references posters from recent African history - here they are made by the children of detained activists in South Africa during the apartheid era.

 

A number of featured artists point out possible next steps. In The Redefining the Power series, Kiluanji Kia Henda stages photographs of people on the empty plinths of Luanda where colonial statues once stood, questioning just how Africa wishes to position itself historically; possibly inventing a new history. Similarly, Thomas J Price’s figurative sculptures of imagined subjects – usually male and black - provides alternative ways of thinking about the prevalent culture of statues and monuments in the West. Tabita Rezaire’s Sorry for Real series addresses the politics around apologising for slavery and colonialism as well as associated calls for reparations. 

The exhibition marks the UK debut of Arthur Jafa’s film akindoncomethas, a montage of found footage depicting impassioned sermons and song that testify to the social and cultural force of the African-American Christian tradition. There is an equal parts reckoning with our moment of secular rupture and the concept of religious rapture, which curator Thomas J Lax describes as “a faith in the possibility of life after catastrophe”. [1] 

Goodman Gallery is acutely aware that the COVID-19 pandemic affects Black people and people of Colour disproportionately and would like to use the exhibition as a vehicle to support these communities and to continue our commitment to social justice.

 

As such a donation of 10% of each sale from this exhibition will be made to two existing entities who are foregrounding Black lives:

 

Johannesburg’s Witkoppen Clinic, a healthcare facility providing essential services to impoverished, largely Black, communities on the margins of the city (https://www.witkoppen.org/). Since opening a gallery in London this time last year, Goodman Gallery has partnered with artists to raise funds for the Clinic, which is under especially high pressure at this time.

 

The second donation source is the Black Lives Matter movement (https://blacklivesmatter.com/) who continue to do important work in breaking down structural racism which oppresses Black people in the US and globally.

 [1] Thomas J. Lax. MoMA Curator, Department of Media and Performance. A Rehearsal for Communion: On Arthur Jafa’s akingdoncomethas. link to textLONDON