Opened in 2011, Leon Gallery has become a renowned launching pad for artists determined to challenge the mainstream. In July 2020’s Human Currency, Jasmine Abena Colgan poured black ink over a noose covered in cowrie shells. Once a form of currency in the kingdom of Ashanti, in modern-day Ghana, the sea snail shells were used by Europeans to “purchase” Africans and gold during the slave trade. Diego Rodriguez-Warner’s November 2020 Horror Vacui’s installation of debris and carved canvases transformed the City Park West gallery into a contemplation of our avoidance of deep thinking. And starting March 5, Black Snafu (Situation Niggas: All Fucked Up) from André Ramos-Woodard will investigate interpretations of Blackness. Although the select lineup of works in the show was undecided at press time, Black Snafu as a whole features a television playing minstrel cartoons of Africans circling huts, wielding spears, and bearing oversized lips while audio of James Baldwin during a debate on race relations with William F. Buckley Jr. plays in the background. It also employs photographs that explore the divergent ways the Black male image embodies beauty for some and danger for others. The N-word is used prominently, invoking its history as both racial slur and term of endearment. Eric G. Nord, Leon’s executive director, believes the nonprofit gallery’s mission is to provide a safe space to work through the ugliness of social critique. “Some of the best artists who eventually gained success were often hated, reviled, or made fun of when they started,” Nord says. In other words, haters hate—until they love.