For her exhibition at Kunsthalle BaselDeana Lawson has gathered new and recent works, including a body of large-scale photographs, holograms, 16mm films, a video, and several installations of small snapshot images, some printed on mirrors and bordered by crystal-encrusted mirrors. Through these, the artist offers meticulously staged yet profoundly intimate images of the African diaspora in her native United States, Brazil, and beyond, creating unforgettable portraits of contemporary Black life.

Lawson gathers her ensemble under the title, Centropy, which resonates in peculiar ways in our present moment. If entropy speaks of the way things dissolve into chaos, centropy describes the opposite, the electrification of matter that leads to creative renewal and order. As this exhibition was being installed and opening to the public, cities across the world were ablaze with anger and indignation that yet another person of color was lost (after so many countless others) at the hands of the very people and systems supposed to serve and protect them. The exhibition comes, moreover, in the midst of a global pandemic that disproportionately affects those whose race, class, or sexuality already puts them at a disadvantage and exposes them, once more, to a higher health and economic risk. In times like our own, Centropy’s message is all the more urgent. Indeed, especially at a moment when the vulnerability of the communities Lawson photographs is so tragically visible, her dignified and resplendent representations of Black lives urge us to not look away.