Dawoud Bey: Harlem, USA and Harlem Redux
January 13 - April 11, 2018
Bey's exploration of everyday urban life early in his career became his landmark Harlem, USA series, which premiered at the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1979 when he was just 26. Harlem Redux marks Bey's return to the community 35 years later. The series comprises large-format color photos reflecting the transition of the celebrated community as it becomes more gentrified and its history more diverse. This exhibition represents the first showing of the two Bey series side by side.
Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) began making photographs at age 16, after seeing the work of James Van Der Zee, who spent decades chronicling the people of Harlem. It was the elder photographer's Harlem on My Mind exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that inspired Bey's understanding that the black community could be the subject of a museum exhibition.
Bey began traveling from his home in Queens to explore the neighborhood that held such history for the country, for black people, and for his family, recalling that his parents had met and lived in Harlem, and family trips there had fascinated him. He became enamored with the vibrancy of Harlem and sought to capture the unique rhythms of life there in his pictures.
While Harlem, USA consists of grayscale portraits and street scenes, Harlem Redux focuses on the architecture and changing landscape of Harlem with an eye on the effects of gentrification, using large-format color photography to capture a community that Bey has said he felt was losing some of its identity and growing more generic.
As both James Van Der Zee and Bey gave voice to a marginalized community and fought the stereotypes of black life, the KIA exhibition will include images from the KIA holdings of 19 James Van Der Zee photographs, dating between 1900 and 1940.
Dawoud Bey holds an MFA in photography from Yale University and is a professor of art at Columbia College, Chicago, where he has taught since 1998. His work has been exhibited worldwide at institutions including the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Bey is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and in October 2017, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
The Harlem, USA portion of this exhibition project is organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions. The Harlem Redux series of photographs is provided with the assistance of Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.
The exhibition is supported by James and Lois Richmond, a legacy gift from David & Muriel Gregg, and
Above: Artist's photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Top: Dawoud Bey, Clothes and Bag for Sale (from Harlem Redux), 1978, silver gelatin print. Courtesy of the artist
Above right: Dawoud Bey, A Woman at a Parade (from Harlem USA), 1977, silver gelatin print. Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
More about the artist
Born in New York City, Dawoud Bey began his career as a photographer in 1975 with a series of photographs, Harlem, USA, that was exhibited in his first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had exhibitions worldwide, at institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Barbican Centre in London, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
His photographs are in numerous collections in this country and abroad. The Walker Art Center organized a mid-career survey of his work, Dawoud Bey: Portraits 1975-1995, that traveled throughout the United States and Europe. A major publication of the same title was also published in conjunction with that exhibition.
Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey was published by Aperture in 2007. Aperture also traveled that exhibition to various museums around the country through 2011. Harlem, USA was published by Yale University Press in May 2012, in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago, where the work was exhibited in its entirety for the first time since it was shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. Bey's critical writings on photography and contemporary art have appeared in numerous publications and exhibition catalogs.
Bey's recent work includes Birmingham: Four Girls and Two Boys, a project that features photographic pairings that freshly frame the tragic events surrounding the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The project presents portraits of citizens of contemporary Birmingham; it offers children the same ages as those who died, coupled with adults who are the ages the children would have reached had they lived. The museum published a catalogue, The Birmingham Project, in 2013.