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.