Peering into the Abyss: Glissant, Goya, and Contemporary Art examines the deep confluences and inspirations that circulate between the writings of Edouard Glissant, Francisco de Goya, and the work of contemporary artists from Africa and its Diaspora. Manthia Diawara (writer, filmmaker, and cultural theorist who teaches Comparative Literature and Film at New York University), Terri Geis (art historian, independent curator, and visiting associate professor in Art and Art History at NYU Abu Dhabi), and Rebecca McGrew (curator, art historian, and senior director of institutional relations at Vielmetter Los Angeles) draw upon Glissant’s concepts of the Abyss, the bottom of the ocean where Black bodies were offloaded because they could not complete the transatlantic journey, a space of abject violence transformed into a shared humanity. The project further draws inspiration from Francisco de Goya’s work as a model for representing the violence of slavery, colonialism, and police brutality. Glissant, Goya, and many artists of Africa and the Diaspora see hope in bringing to light those who have been kept at the bottom, as an imaginative and stylistic justification of their rights to be equal in the world.
The Peering into the Abyss exhibition and related programs will include works by contemporary artists that are both directly and indirectly inspired by the visionary creative methods and rebellious pathos of Glissant and Goya. Artists under consideration include Michael Armitage, Ellen Gallagher, Todd Gray, David Hammons, Rachid Koraichi, Manuel Mathieu, Paulo Nazareth, Cheikh Ndiaye, Ebony G. Patterson, and Yinka Shonibare.