Fifty Years After: Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, LaToya Ruby Frazier
Opening reception: Saturday, August 20 from 5 - 9 PM
Exhibition dates: August 20 – October 16 2016

James Barron Art is pleased to announce a group exhibition, “Fifty Years After: Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, LaToya Ruby Frazier.” It has been fifty years since the Civil Rights movement and since Gordon Parks’ remarkable photographs opened the door for successive generations of black photographers. This exhibition honors the achievements of these four photographers. Parks’ iconic photographs tell the story of the postwar American experience, focusing on civil rights, poverty, and race relations from the early 1940s until his death in 2006. Conceived of by Agnes Gund, the exhibition highlights photographs from Parks’ documentation of life in mid-twentieth century Harlem. Selections in this exhibition include works simultaneously exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago’s Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem.

Parks received numerous awards during his lifetime, including the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and over fifty honorary doctorates, and was also noted for his significant contributions to music and film. In 2000, the Library of Congress selected Parks' film Shaft for National Film Registry preservation, and awarded Parks the “Living Legend” accolade.

Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, and LaToya Ruby Frazier use photography to document black life in America. All three photographers move Parks’ idiom further by inserting family members, friends, lovers and themselves into the work, creating images that speak to both personal experience and more broadly to relationships, class, and equality. 

Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series explores the complexities of relationships, grounded by the symbolic kitchen table. Included in the exhibition is a complete portfolio of platinum prints and text panels from the Kitchen Table Series. Mickalene Thomas focuses on the individual, by photographing her friends and family. Her work addresses stereotypes and misconceptions of the black experience and female form. Thomas photographs her models — including herself, her mother, and friends/lovers — in studio sets inspired by music and films from the 1970s, surrounded by intensely colored and embellished fabrics reminiscent of her paintings. LaToya Ruby Frazier’s

The Notion of Family tells the twelve-year story of Braddock, Pennsylvania, the deteriorating steel community in which she grew up. The photographs show the decline of industry in America and explore its effects on the individual family across generations. This exhibition is presented in tandem with a symposium of the same name at KentPresents. Blanton Museum curator Carter Foster, who previously was the curator of drawings for the Whitney Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will moderate a panel including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Dr. Deborah Willis of New York University, and Sarah Lewis of Harvard University on August 20. KentPresents runs from August 18 to 20. An opening reception on August 20, from 5 to 9 PM, will be part of Kent Arts Night, the town’s celebration of its tradition as an art center. “What strikes me most,” says James Barron, “is the deep humanity in the photographs. These are universal stories that touch us with their familiarity. We are thrilled to bring together the work of these artists in Connecticut in conjunction with KentPresents, an ideas festival now in its second year. Gordon Parks’ photographs help spark the Civil Rights movement. Fifty Years After, we as a society need to assess where we are now.”

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