Photo exhibitions focused on marginalized people

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This article is part of our last Fine Arts & Exhibitions special report, on how artistic institutions help the public to discover new options for the future.


During the pandemic, Isolde Brielmaier, general curator at the International Center for Photography, began to wonder how black photographers were navigating this crisis – particularly as the battle for racial justice escalated after the murder of George Floyd and the 2020 presidential race.

She therefore chose five emerging photographers, all of whom live in the United States, who, according to her, are “representative of a generation that is rising today”. The result is “Inward: Reflections on Interiority”, an exhibition of 47 images that genres the self-portrait.

The exhibition includes works by Djeneba Aduayom, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Quil Lemons, Brad Ogbonna and Isaac West that go “beyond simply documenting the world they have moved into,” Ms. Brielmaier said. “It’s a generation that has a certain sense of freedom to work beyond what used to be pretty hard limits.”

Photographers were asked to use their smartphones – “their imaging tool,” she said – and turn the lens on themselves. “And they share images that reflect their inner life,” Ms. Brielmaier said.

The exhibition at the International Center of Photography on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which runs through January 10, is one of many in the United States that highlights the work of black photographers, as well as artists from other racial and ethnic groups.

Museums and galleries in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Boston, New York and Richmond, Va., Among others, showcased works that show the range of art created by once marginalized artists, and provide a glimpse into their worlds. exteriors and individual points of view.

The works cover a variety of styles and focuses, including portraiture, concept pieces, and fashion photography. The artists are both newcomers and already established ones in the world of photography.

For Mr. West, who shot for Vogue Italy and is one of the “Inward” artists, the camera gave him a voice, he said. Interested in creative direction at first, he took some photography courses but turned to others for shootings.

“If I had an idea, I would go see a photographer friend and we would bring it to life,” he said. But he said he was eager to wait for others to realize his ideas and started taking pictures himself.

An exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, “Requiems: Reframing history through the photographic lens ”aims to“ show how photographers become more than documentary filmmakers, ”said Valerie Cassel Oliver, curator of modern and contemporary art at the museum.

The exhibit, which runs through November 7, was designed by Ms. Oliver to explore some of the 20th century’s most turbulent moments, including the assassinations of Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. The works were created by three photographers, Dawoud Bey, Marilyn Nance and Carrie Mae Weems.

Mr. Bey just had a major photography exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This exhibition, “Dawoud Bey: An American Project”, included some of his street portraits in Harlem, as well as works from a more recent project: large-scale gelatin prints imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad. The footprints were made when Mr. Bey walked a path in northeastern Ohio, followed by runaway slaves trying to find their way to freedom.

The National Gallery in Washington recently acquired and installed “Untitled,” a suite of seven inkjet prints by Ms. Weems. Ms. Nance’s work has been featured in numerous magazines.

Photographs by queer and non-binary artist Jess T. Dugan are on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum in “Currents 120: Jess T. Dugan”, which runs until February 20. The artist, who prefers the pronoun “they,” said they feared working indoors during the pandemic and therefore began to create lyrical portraits outdoors.

Eric Lutz, co-curator of the exhibition with Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, noted that the works reveal a broader sense of the artist’s space and color palette.

“It’s fascinating because they took what could have been a limitation and turned it into an opportunity to creatively expand their practice,” said Lutz. He added that: “Even though Jess is concerned with gender issues, at the end of the day the work is about human relationships at a time when this is so important.”

The Denison Museum in Granville, Ohio, exhibits the work of Native American photographer Will Wilson. The show is linked to a one-year symposium at Denison College, “Imagining Together: Indigenous Activisms and Feminism”.

Mr. Wilson’s exhibition, “In Conversation: Will Wilson”, which runs through November 19, includes large images of Native American peoples, and also focuses on environmental issues.

Next spring, in an effort to leave the tragedy of the pandemic behind, the Cleveland Museum of Art plans to show “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion”.

The exhibition will feature work by 26-year-old Tyler Mitchell, who was the first black man to cover Vogue.

Planning for the show took place “amid protests related to Black Lives Matter,” said Barbara Tannenbaum, the museum’s curator of photography. “A lot of the art people were talking about dealt with black trauma, and we wanted to offer a different side of black life and emphasize the creative power of black people.”

Many exhibits feature black female photographers. Of the five photographers in the International Center for Photography exhibition, two are women. And of the 39 photographers slated for the 2022 Cleveland Museum of Art exhibit, 17 are women, Tannenbaum said.

The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston opens an exhibition of works by 2020 Hugo Boss Prize winner Deana Lawson (November 4 to February 27), the first time the Contemporary Art Prize has been awarded to a photographer.

“This is the first museum study of his body of work,” said Eva Respini, chief curator of the institute. Ms. Lawson is best known for her surprisingly intimate photographs of people posing, often surrounded by unexpected objects.

The California African American Museum in Los Angeles exhibits the work of LaToya Ruby Frazier. “The Last Cruze,” which runs through March 20, chronicles the closure of the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in 2019, and the impact on its workers. Ms. Frazier’s family migrated from the South to Braddock, Pa., Where Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill is located, and her life experience provided an intimate perspective on the costs of plant closures.

“The intention was to show the true value of hard work and solidarity,” Ms. Frazier said of “The Last Cruze”. “We desperately need it right now. “

An exhibit at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, “The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller,” focuses on another female photographer. Ms Miller, who died in 1977, was a portrait photographer in Paris in the 1930s, as well as a photojournalist during World War II. The exhibition ends on January 2.

In an exhibition that ended earlier this month, “The New Woman Behind the Camera” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum explored the work of female photographers from around the world through images taken from the 1920s to 1950s. For these women, photography offered a vehicle of expression in an era of limited choice.

“Photography was a form of personal and professional expression,” said Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan. “The camera has become a tool for empowerment. It allowed women to make their own life choices and gave them a chance to make broader choices. “

A number of conservatives noted that progress has been made and that women from minority groups have achieved a certain degree of recognition.

“For this exhibition, they are already very visible,” Ms. Brielmaier said of the International Center for Photography exhibition. “They have great followers. Many paths have already been blazed by women like Carrie Mae Weems and Mickalene Thomas. When it comes to exhibitions, there have been breakthroughs. ”

Closing the sales gap is another story. Ms Respini from the Institute of Contemporary Art said: “Men and white men in particular always do better at auctions, but this is less of a problem than before.

Museums hope that exhibits focused on the work of various artists will attract new visitors and members. “We are always looking for ways to allow the community to see itself reflected,” Ms. Cassel Oliver said. “Any museum worth its salt is looking for ways to do this. It’s an attempt to have some relevance. You need exhibits that help the community see each other.


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