San Francisco, Oct 7 (udaipur kiran) American photographer Dawoud Bey, who has dedicated over four decades to portraying underrepresented communities in his country, will be presenting his first retrospective exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) next year. The exhibition will later travel to museums in Atlanta and New York.
Featuring approximately 80 works, the exhibition ‘Dawoud Bey: An American Project’ spans the breadth of Bey’s career, from the 1970s to the present. Displayed both thematically and chronologically, the works will range from his earliest street portraits in Harlem (1975-78) to his most recent exploration of the Underground Railroad (2017).
“The power of Bey’s work comes from the marriage of his extraordinary formal skill as a photographer with his deeply held belief in the political power of representation,” said Corey Keller, curator of photography at SFMOMA.
“He sees making art as not just a personal expression but as an act of social responsibility, emphasising the necessary work of artists and art institutions to break down obstacles to access, to convene communities and open dialogue.”
Describing his process, Bey said, “It begins with the subject, a deep interest in wanting to describe the Black subject in a way that’s as complex as the experiences of anyone else. It’s meant to kind of reshape the world one person at a time.”
Bey received his first camera as a gift from his godmother in 1968. The following year, he saw the landmark – and highly divisive – exhibition ‘Harlem on My Mind’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition, widely criticised for its failure to include significant numbers of artworks by African Americans, nonetheless made an impression on young Bey and inspired him to take up his own documentary project about Harlem in 1975.
Since that time, Bey has worked primarily in portraiture, making tender, psychologically rich and direct portrayals of Black subjects and rendering African-American history in a form that is poetic, poignant and immediate.
Keller and co-curator Elisabeth Sherman, assistant curator at the co-organising Whitney Museum, explained that the exhibition’s title, ‘Dawoud Bey: An American Project’, “intentionally inserts Bey’s photographs into a long-running conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera”.
Venues and Dates
SFMOMA: February 15 to May 25, 2020
High Museum of Art, Atlanta: June to October 2020
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: November 20, 2020 to Spring 2021