Black Light


Contact: Erin Nixon, Assistant Director, 312 996 6114,

Black Light & Make Room

Gallery 400
June 23-August 5, 2017

Black Light Wattis 3 2017 02
Installation view of Black Light at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, spring 2017.

Black Light
June 23-August 5, 2017

Participants: Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter, Community Futures Lab, Fathom DJ, Amir George, Patric McCoy, The Underground Museum, and more

Make Room June 23-August 5, 2017
Artists: Chicago ACT Collective, NIC Kay, AJ McClenon, Rhonda Wheatley, and more

June 20, 2017—Chicago, IL—Black Light and Make Room are complementary exhibitions focusing on resistance, resilience, and self-reliance in the face of 21st century racism. Created largely as sites for performances, actions, and events, the shows use the exhibition site as a catalyst for change.

Black Light considers the powerful ways that black artists continue to promote the visibility of black cultural producers and contest structural racism. Experimental in nature, the exhibition focuses not on the assembly of artworks or objects, but on a series of events. These events—produced in collaboration with black artists, activists, scholars, and curators—constitute the exhibition: a forum for conversations that address the relationship between black artists and cultural institutions. Black Light is the result of a commitment to providing a space for exchange among artists and audience; collaboration as much as curating; and a desire to engage with conversations taking place right now.

Focusing on how artistic practices can fundamentally reconceptualize institutions, the exhibition addresses a series of questions: What spaces for agency are available to black artists today and by what means have they produced spaces for themselves? What models for creating spaces does history offer contemporary artists? What role do institutions play in their reconceptualization? How do communities make themselves visible? Can artists dream the sociopolitical landscape differently and what forms do these dreams take?

A single painting by artist Rodney McMillian, red dust between (2017), anchors the space. The artist’s use of a discarded bed sheet as canvas evokes narratives of destruction, reclamation, sleep, and dreams, and—in this way—suggests a range of responses to the complexities of our current political landscape. Complementing the painting is a listening station programmed by Fathom DJ, as well as a rotating series of documentaries and oral histories. Black Light was originally organized by the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts and exhibited at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in the spring of 2017. The Chicago iteration has been tailored to Chicago’s history and current conditions.

Developed and organized by the 2017 Exhibition Practices class in the UIC Museum and Exhibition Studies program, Make Room re-situates self-care and collective healing as a fundamental component of resistance, asking: What are our current systems of care? Which bodies are deemed worthy within these systems? The reclamation of self-care by marginalized people is imperative in the sustained resistance to structural oppression. Self-care has been appropriated by mainstream culture in ways that ignore its history of anti-capitalist and collective healing practices. Popular forms of self-care provide temporary solutions and suggest that the issues are personal rather than systemic. Inherent to the concept of self-care are complex dynamics of race, gender, and class that affect communities both emotionally and materially.

Projects in the exhibition include NIC Kay’s GET WELL SOON!, an interdisciplinary project based on a loose and often used phrase indicating a hope of recovery. GWS is an interruption, a memorial, a wake, and a meditation on reparations that contemplates what black diasporic collective healing looks, feels, and sounds like. Rhonda Wheatley creates an installation that provides a comfortable space infused with healing energy where visitors may sit, reflect, and write using journaling prompts provided by the artist. Chicago ACT Collective displays its screen-printed Sanctuary poster alongside blank version of the posters, which visitors can fill in in ways that reflect their ideas of sanctuary. Seeking to deepen and solidify the meaning and actions that constitute building and defending sanctuaries, the Collective is developing a zine, workshops, and trainings that support the message of the poster.

Gallery 400 Black Light and Make Room Programs:

Friday, June 23, 5-8pm—Opening Reception: Black Light and Make Room

Friday, June 23, 6-7pm—Performance Exercise with NIC Kay: (e.3 There is a time and place for Everything)

Saturday, July 8, 1-3pm—Black Light Workshop: Collecting Black Art with Patric McCoy

Saturday, July 15, 1-3pm—Moving Energy: A Self-Care and Healing Workshop with Rhonda Wheatley

Thursday, July 20, 6-8pm—Black Light Screening: Remnants of a Dream curated by Amir George

Saturday, July 22, 1-3pm—Black Light Lecture: Community Futures Lab

Thursday, July 27, 6-8pm—Black Light Screening: A Documentary of Noah Davis by Kahlil Joseph

Saturday, July 29, 1-3pm—Release & Receive: A Workshop and Group Healing Session with Rhonda Wheatley

Tuesday, August 1, 6-7:30pm—Black Light Conversation: Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter

Saturday, August 5, 5pm—Closing Performances: Featuring Adrienne Deeble, AJ McClenon, and Rhonda Wheatley

Additional program details to be announced. For a complete list of programs for Black Light and Make Room, visit


Gallery 400 also offers guided tours for groups of all ages. Tours are free of charge but require reservation. Please complete our online form (accessible at to schedule a tour of Black Light and Make Room. For more information, or to discuss the specific needs and interests of your group, please contact us at 312.996.6114 or

Support for Black Light and Make Room is provided by the School of Art & Art History, the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Daryl Gerber Stokols and Jeff Stokols Voices Series Fund provides general support to Gallery 400.

Founded in 1983, Gallery 400 is one of the nation's most vibrant university galleries, showcasing work at the leading edge of contemporary art, architecture, and design. The Gallery's program of exhibitions, lectures, film and video screenings, and performances features interdisciplinary and experimental practices. Operating within the School of Art and Art History in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Gallery 400 endeavors to make the arts and its practitioners accessible to a broad spectrum of the public and to cultivate a variety of cultural and intellectual perspectives. Gallery 400 is recognized for its support of the creation of new work, the diversity of its programs and participants, and the development of experimental models for multidisciplinary exhibition.