Speculative: Black Art Practices of the West features short critical essays on performances, installations, and discrete objects by contemporary black artists practicing within the western United States as a way to center the West as an important and underacknowledged spatial formation within black contemporary art movements. Interested in the possibilities presented by the idea of the West and the realm of black art-making, Speculative seeks to mimic the distinct aesthetic legacies of California’s black art traditions by remaining attentive to ephemerality as methodology, collective practices of assemblage as tactics of inquiry, and, most particularly, speculation as critical art practice.

Essence Harden is an independent curator and writer. Harden has curated exhibitions at Charlie James Gallery, the California African American Museum, Antenna Gallery, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Advocate and Gochis Galleries, and Residency Art Gallery. Their curatorial practice is informed by a concern for locality, diasporic pull, blackness, and queered subjectivities. Harden’s writing has appeared in Performa Magazine, SFAQ: International Art and Culture, Everyday Feminism, Palmss, and Acres. Harden is a PhD candidate in African diaspora studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Oliva K. Young is a PhD candidate in African diaspora studies at UC Berkeley. Her work examines distortion as a material and methodological aesthetic of black feminist art that calls attention to the contingent and non-visual ways one “sees” blackness and, by extension, black womxn’s sentience and subjectivity. Her writing has appeared in Women & Performance as well as in exhibition catalogues for the New Museum, Gallery 44, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and Antenna Gallery.