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 under-acknowledged spatial formation within black contemporary art movements. Interested in the possibilities presented by westernness 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. Essence has curated exhibitions at Charlie James Gallery, California African American Museum, Antenna Gallery, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 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. Writing has appeared in Performa Magazine, SFAQ: International Arts and Culture, Everyday Feminism, Palmss Magazine, and Acres. Essence is currently a PhD candidate in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley.

Oliva K. Young is a PhD candidate in the department of 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 appears in Women & Performance as well as exhibition catalogues for The New Museum, Gallery 44, The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and Antenna Gallery.