Friday, April 13, 2018

Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J. M. W. Turner

It is extremely difficult to do justice in words to the current SFMOMA show Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J. M. W. Turner. It is simply awesome. Not "awesome" in the everyday sense of cool, rad, groovy. No. Rather in the sense of that which evokes awe. Akomfrah's work is a large scale three-screen video installation called Vertigo Sea - three interwoven films that bring together sublime nature imagery, raw images from ocean-born refugee crises and the whaling industry, and enigmatic images of a Black man in historical garb standing in vast landscapes. There's a lot going on all at once - much of extremely beautiful and much of it deeply disturbing. Your eyes don't know where to look, your brain's not sure what to think, and your heart feels conflicting emotions simultaneously. At the artist's request this work is paired with Turner's painting The Deluge (just below), creating yet another mysterious and moving juxtaposition. 

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