Drawing, “Back at the Headquarters,” 2020; Oasa DuVerney; Ink on paper; 12 x 8.75 in.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


“After a massive tsunami left Manhattan and most of the United States under water, waves of political, social, racial, and class unrest erupted. The year is 2077 when the exhibition Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro Selects begins its Afrofuturist tale. Tasked by the flourishing African Assembly, which was founded in 2033, a young explorer named àlá searches underwater ruins of cultural institutions, including Cooper Hewitt, to recover and reunite artifacts with the African continent.

The first exhibition that centers a fictional narrative at Cooper Hewitt, Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro Selects is the 19th installation in the Selects Series that invites designers, artists, architects, and public figures to explore and interpret Cooper Hewitt’s collection of more than 215,000 objects. Jon Gray, the cofounder of the creative collective and cooking advocacy group Ghetto Gastro, has carefully furnished àlá’s lab, choosing their discoveries that span time periods, cultures, and mediums. Remixing original histories and uses, the collection becomes a launching pad to tell àlá’s story. Contained in the explorer’s go-bag, a myriad of objects become their tools for exploration: an 18th-century barbed spearhead is used for protection, French mother-of-pearl opera glasses become opulent binoculars for adventure, and a limited-edition Olympus Pocket Camera from the 1980s documents their journey. To better understand àlá’s mission, artworks by Oasa DuVerney illustrate the adventurer’s rituals, journeys, and interactions with the objects throughout the gallery…”