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In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Oxossi Ayofemi and Risa Wechsler

Jul 26, 2018–Jan 14, 2020

Based on the Talmudic study principle of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—In That Case at The CJM encourages learning through fellowship for Bay Area artists, established professionals, museum staff, and the entire CJM community. Capitalizing on the unique Jewish perspective inherent to The Museum, this program takes the practice of havruta and repurposes it for the contemporary art community. Each local artist invited to participate in In That Case is given the opportunity to work with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing. The resulting collaborations are presented in the Sala Webb Education Center.

Visual artist Oxossi Ayofemi and her chosen havruta partner, groundbreaking Stanford physicist Risa Wechsler, present Black Matter, discussing the nature of the elusive dark matter that fills the universe, as well as notions of presence and absence, and latent abundance in African American culture. Ayofemi’s three experiments in urban space, sound, and movement, is epitomized by local turf dancers, an abandoned site in San Francisco, and Afro Futurist sound.


This exhibition is included in your general admission ticket. Museum admission also includes free access to all public programs and tours, unless otherwise noted. Public tours are offered daily (except Wednesdays) and are available first-come, first-serve—no reservations are necessary. Private guided tours, access tours for visitors with disabilities, and guided tours for school groups of all ages are also available.

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Cosmic thought in Jewish tradition is juxtaposed with African American radical imaginative work. The exhibition, Black Matter, foregrounds forms of power and energy that are often unrecognized and unseen, but circulate in a state of transformation. The artist's research includes Black Power, deserts, cities, waterfalls, and break dancing as sources and models of continuous energy. 

Black Matter explores the concept of dark matter and dark energy in physics, as a principle resonant with everyday magic in urban space. The havruta dialogue is with Risa Wechsler. Risa Wechsler is a cosmologist, a professor of physics at Stanford and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and a member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. Wechsler is drawn to cosmology because it seeks to answer questions about our existence on the largest scales: What is the Universe made of and why? How did our galaxy and other galaxies come into being? How has the Universe developed over the past 14 billion years?


Oxossi Ayofemi

Oxossi Ayofemi, Still 2 (Dance Portrait), from the series Black Matter, 2018. Digital photograph. 23 x 30 in. (58 x 76 cm). Courtesy of the artist.

about Oxossi Ayofemi

Oxossi Ayofemi is an artist inspired by everyday utopian forms. Her works of art are experiences that mingle the senses and cross material with the immaterial. Ayofemi’s current activation of urban economy and urban landscape in Oakland and San Francisco includes temporary rock bands, landscapes, danceworks, quilts, soundscapes, and acts of sustenance and soul food. Ayofemi’s work has been presented by the Kadist Art Foundation, SFMOMA, Southern Exposure, The Carpenter Center, The Wattis Institute, the Asian Art Museum, The New Museum's New Inc, dOCUMENTA, the British Arts Council, and Chicago's Rebuild Foundation. Born in Brooklyn and based in California, Ayofemi has an MFA in Studio Art from Stanford University.

about Risa WechSler

Risa Wechsler is a professor of physics at Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a specialist in galaxy formation, dark matter, and dark energy.

Professor Wechsler combines large numerical simulations with data from the largest existing and future galaxy surveys to model and map out the evolution and contents of the Universe from its earliest moments to the present day, and to learn about the nature of dark energy and dark matter and the physics of galaxy formation. She is playing a leading role in the largest cosmological surveys, which together are mapping out tens of billions of galaxies over more than 13 billion years of the Universe's history.

Risa Wechsler is the incoming Director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.


Nathaniel Deutsch, professor of literature and history and co-director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz, introduces the practice of havruta.


In that Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Supporting sponsorship is generously provided by Al and Rosanne Levitt.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum thanks The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for Lead Sponsorship of The Museum’s exhibition program.

Image Credit

Header image: courtesy of Oxossi Ayofemi.