The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has an exhibition dedicated to the prominent visual artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa on view. The museum has a long and well-established relationship with Jafa, with a total of eight video installations, sculptural and visual works held in its collection, much of which features in the exhibition.

Organized as a survey of Jafa's work over the past decade, the exhibition provides visitors an opportunity to view works which had not been previously available to the public. Among the four video installations which are being shown, the earliest piece in the collection, APEX, is an eight-minute video in which Jafa gathered 841 found images into a video collage. The rapid and rhythmic succession of images, accompanied by a techno soundtrack from DJ Robin Hood, explores scenes from Black life in the United States.

APEX, Arthur Jafa, 2013. Video (color, sound), 8 minutes, 12 seconds. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery.

In akingdoncomethas, Jafa takes the concept of filmic collage that he applied in APEX and expands and upends it; he reverses the practice of rapidly alternating images, incorporating long uncut footage of sermons and singing from African-American church life that are ominously interspersed with images of California wildfires.

akingdoncomethas, Arthur Jafa, 2018. Video (color, sound), 105 minutes. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Courtesy of the artist.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is the now-iconic Love is the Message, the Message is Death. Consisting of a compilation of footage shot by Jafa himself as well as of videos from YouTube, the artist constructs a powerful narrative that reveals the beauty and horror of Black life against a backdrop of systemic racism and violence. In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the video was famously shown online and on repeat for 48 hours by a consortium of international museums including Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Studio Museum in Harlem, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Tate in London, and others.

The MCA Chicago exhibition is organized by René Morales, former James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, and Jack Schneider, Assistant Curator. It is open through March 2, 2025. For more detailed information about the ongoing exhibition, visit the MCA Chicago site.

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