Visual art show ‘Terra Incognita’ spans decades of operate documenting Black trauma

By Gina Gotsill

Bay City News Foundation

The astronaut match at the entrance of David Huffman’s demonstrate “Terra Incognita,” on see right up until Sept. 18 at the Museum of the African Diaspora, is the initially clue that we are not in San Francisco anymore. We’re in the land of the Traumanauts, Huffman’s signature Black house tourists hunting for a area to connect with residence. They’re on a surreal journey, creating stops at an Oakland sideshow, taking pictures baskets in a random courtroom and actively playing guitar in an summary void.

What is going on right here? Where did the Traumanauts arrive from? And do they at any time settle down, pull off their helmets and say, “Mission accomplished”?

With this study of the Oakland artist’s do the job spanning 3 many years, MoAD attempts to solution these questions. But with his ties to science fiction and social and ecological justice, the Berkeley-born artist seems to advise that the journey is at any time-changing and eternal. It is triumphant in one particular minute, and agonizing in the subsequent.

Elena Gross, MoAD director of exhibitions and curatorial affairs, suggests it ideal: “It’s a narrative that has been creating over many years, and we needed to be capable to deliver that narrative in all of its complexities to MoAD.”

The demonstrate features a array of media, such as numerous significant-scale canvases, operates on paper, ceramics and video. Huffman’s 1999 ceramic sculptures of Luxor DX and TraumaEve established the tone. The figures use a disturbing “traumasmile,” outlined as “a survival gesture in response to functions of intentional and institutional anti-Black racism.”

Standing beside their watermelon-themed UFO, Luxor DX and TraumaEve transportation us to the period of minstrelsy, when white persons wore blackface and performed the idiot. Then, Luxor DX and TraumaEve start off to evolve. Their feelings grow. In 1 2005 portray, TraumaEve angrily hurls a tank at her likeness as smoke rises around her. These early characters gave way to the Traumanauts in 2005, standard fixtures of Huffman’s do the job that characterize Black folks on a journey by bizarre, unsettling and unpredictable worlds.

“Terra Incognita” has a “Twilight Zone” charm that is enhanced by eerie seems that pulse by way of the room. The sounds direct viewers to a nearby screening space, in which Huffman’s 2009 video, “Treehugger” is taking part in on a loop. Huffman shot the video immediately after observing trees marked for cutting during a journey to the Sierra Nevada. He place on his NASA room suit (the exact accommodate on exhibit at the clearly show) and filmed himself strolling about hugging trees, Huffman’s publicist Nina Sazevich suggests, describing a current conversation she had with the artist about the function.

The video feels like saying goodbye to a liked one particular whom you desire you experienced a lot more time with. There is a dystopian really feel to it — like with the Traumanauts — remaining from Earth but not of it, Sazevich describes. It speaks to ecological trauma — how we are all guests in this article and not pretty superior caretakers of the earth.

MoAD supposed to open the show in March 2020, Gross suggests. “But now, in March/April 2022, it feels primarily crucial mainly because the Traumanauts remind us of what collectivity, link and mutual treatment suggest nowadays,” she states. “In the deal with of a national reckoning with anti-Black racism and a world wide pandemic, the Traumanauts offer a balm and a guideline through these troubling instances we locate ourselves in.”

“David Huffman: Terra Incognita” run as a result of Sept. 18 at Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., San Francisco. The museum is open up 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 for normal admission, $6 for seniors, college students and educators, and free for youth underneath 12. For far more facts, pay a visit to