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Steffani Jemison, Sensus Plenior, 2017. Installation view, Whitney Biennial 2019, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2019

Steffani Jemison attends to the seam between conceptual precepts and embodied knowledge. Her multidisciplinary approach spans time-based, sculptural, and discursive mediums, informed by deep research into movement practices, literature, ethnomusicology, and the history of cinema. A 2020 recipient of a Creative Capital Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors, her recent work examines the liberatory potential of opacity and quiet. Calligraphic drawings on clear film or tempered glass suggest an unreadable language, amplifying what she calls the “tensions between what can be read, what can be intuited, and what refuses to give up its secrets.” Mining the Black vernacular tradition of encrypting what cannot be said, Jemison looks to the archive for alternative genealogies of mark-making that sidestep the modernist narrative. The artist is perhaps best known for her lush video portrayals of highly skilled performers, whose spellbinding physical feats pose the questions at the heart of Jemison’s own practice. “How do we move?” she asks. “How are we moved by each other? And how do we have the courage to pour ourselves into another without fear of depletion?”

Installation view, Steffani Jemison, CAPC – Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, 2017

Steffani Jemison (b. 1981) lives and works in New York. Her work is currently on view in A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration at the Brooklyn Museum through June 25, and in Counterpublic 2023, the second St. Louis Triennial, through July 15. Recent solo exhibitions, screenings, and performances include JOAN, Los Angeles (2022); Greene Naftali, New York (2021); Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati (2021); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2019); Lincoln Center, New York (2018); Jeu de Paume, Paris (2017); CAPC Bordeaux (2017); MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2017); Nottingham Contemporary (2017); RISD Museum, Providence, Rhode Island (2015); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015). A professor of Art & Design at Rutgers University, Jemison’s first novel, A Rock, A River, A Street, was published by Primary Information in 2022.

Her work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.


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