Collection 1980s–Present


Critical Fabulations

Fall 2021 - Winter 2023


Dalton Paula. Liberata. 2020. Oil, pencil, and gold leaf on two joined canvases, 24 × 17 11/16" (61 × 45 cm). Gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Peter Reed. © Dalton Paula
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 214

The artists in this gallery use artifacts, archives, and testimonies—from badges from an ex-slave association to video footage of trans activist Sylvia Rivera speaking to her foresister Mary Jones, who lived a century before her—in works that respond to the legacy of colonialism and its hold in the present.

The title of this gallery is borrowed from Saidiya Hartman, a cultural historian who has written about the afterlife of slavery. Responding to the limits of official archives, she offers us “critical fabulation”—the use of storytelling and speculative narration as a means of redressing history’s omissions, particularly those in the lives of enslaved people. This gallery brings together recently made art that evokes Hartman’s method with a selection of early 20th-century photographs. Together they strive to tell what Hartman has described as “an impossible story.”

Organized by Roxana Marcoci, The David Dechman Senior Curator, Department of Photography, and Thomas (T.) Jean Lax, Curator, Department of Media and Performance, with Gee Wesley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance.

32 works online


Installation images

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