That year he also curated an exhibition at Gladstone with photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe that contained many explicit images. And his new gallery show, in which the metal sculptures give off a distinct dungeon energy, also includes several photos of his own – one overtly sexual showing a flaccid penis whose owner has not been identified.

When I asked Jafa in this direction, he answered in two steps.

First, he said, it came from a rebellious impulse. “It’s adamant, punk, nihilistic, depressive, Gothic.”

Then he followed the thought to a heavier place.

“Power relations and sexuality for black people – these things always occur and are permeable to one another,” he said. He collapsed the story of the forced mismatch that went back to the plantation into a crude metaphor. “I can’t look my face without seeing my rapist in the mirror. I don’t look like the Africans who came here. “

But Lax, the curator of MoMA, said sexual pluralism in Jafa’s work also connects to his creative community; For example, he worked with the trans artist Tourmaline. “It’s about bringing yourself into the room in a meaningful way, but not centering your own desires or identity,” said Lax.

So read, it is an affirmation of everyone’s freedom. Jafa put it briefly: “There are an infinite number of positions to be filled.”

Jafa identifies the source of his recalcitrant streak in his childhood in Mississippi, where, he said, the church was the institution that gathered and protected the congregation. But it was also hierarchical and enforced conformity. The dark, deprecated material was expressed in the blues elsewhere.