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African Americans Before and Behind the Camera

January 23 - May 30, 2010
Curator's Talk by Lisa Henry: January 23, 5:00-7:00pm

Carrie Mae Weems

"The visual dialogue created by this exhibition links past, present, and future generations of African American artists. This dialogue seeks to help viewers explore the universal nature of memory and photographic representation in relation to their own personal histories."
—Lisa Henry

Top: Carrie Mae Weems
May Flowers from May Days Long Forgotten, 2003
C-print, wood and convex glass
21 1/2" (framed diameter)
On loan from The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
AF 2004.1.1


Right: Alan Kimara Dixon
Twin, 2000
16" x 20"
On loan from the Collection of the Artist, Oakland, CA


Double Exposure was PDN's Pick of the month. Click here to view PDF


Double Exposure showcases vintage photographs from the Amistad Center for Art & Culture’s historical collection of art and artifacts with photo-based art by contemporary African-American artists. This landmark exhibition comprehensively explores the African American experience through an examination of representation in photographic works from the 19th and 20th centuries. It highlights African American history, as well as the history of photography and includes photographs, albums, and cased images, as well as contemporary art that incorporate vintage photographic imagery.

It brings together photographers from diverse backgrounds with different artistic, photographic and cultural interests. The contemporary section features late 20th century photography, photo-collage, and mixed media by artists that visualize the black experience and identify a larger contemporary experience of race through the use of personal, cultural and historical images of race, society and identity. Concepts of identity and memory form one of the exhibition’s over-arching themes, visually theorizing the shifting relationships between black cultural memory and contemporary photographic storytelling.

According to guest curators Lisa Henry and Frank Mitchell, the exhibit illuminates the persistent interplay between the past and the present in African-American photography. The exhibit also looks at the myriad choices now available to photo-based artists. The techniques represented in the exhibit include: daguerreotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite, traditional silver prints, Polaroids, digital prints, assemblage, and photographs printed on linen, wood and felt. Double Exposure presents the history of African-American photography in thematic sections as opposed to a strict chronology. The major themes include: the influence of historical and family photography on contemporary African-American art; the multiple uses of photographic appropriation, a technique that has been used since the 1970s to commemorate as well as to critique; the importance of the portrait tradition in African-American photography from the earliest studio portraits of the 19th century to the mural size color and digital portraits made today; and the influence of master photographers such as Augustus Washington and James Van Der Zee.

Significant figures from the history of African American photography represented in Double Exposure include J. P. Ball, Napoleon Sarony, Cornelius Marion Battey and Addison Scurlock. Contemporary photographers include Leslie Hewitt, Carla Williams, Clarissa Sligh, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Albert Chong, and Myra Greene. Predominant subjects include the history of African-Americans as photographic subjects; the diversity and artistry of black life as depicted by African-Americans who have taken up the camera to create their own images; contemporary works that comment on slavery and the civil rights conflicts of the 20th century; and Contemporary explorations of family, identity and history.

Lisa Henry
is an independent curator and writer. She is a former Assistant Curator for American Art at the Newark Museum in New Jersey. Her exhibitions include: The Grapes of Wrath: Horace Bristol’s California Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, I’m Thinking of a Place at the UCLA Hammer Museum, and Blacks in and Out of the Box at The California African American Museum.

Frank Mitchell is Consulting Historian for The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Collections Manager for the New Haven Municipal Art Collection, and has taught museum studies for Trinity College’s Graduate Studies Program. He is a founding partner of the consulting group Westside Works and board president of the Connecticut public history cooperative Stone Soup.

Photographers Represented in the Exhibition:
Maya Freelon Asante ◦ J.P. Ball ◦ April Banks ◦ Cornelius Marion Battey ◦ Sheila Pree Bright ◦ Kesha Bruce ◦ Albert Chong ◦ Renne Cox ◦ Gerald Cyrus ◦ Alan Kimara Dixon ◦ Bridget Goodman ◦ Myra Greene ◦ Leslie Hewitt ◦ Melvina Lathan ◦ Stephanie Lindsey ◦ Willie Robert Middlebrook ◦ H.P. Moore ◦ Wendy Phillips ◦ Glynnis Reed ◦ Betye Saar ◦ Napoleon Sarony ◦ Rhoba L. Scales ◦ Addison Scurlock ◦ Beyaté Ross Smith ◦ Lorna Simpson ◦ Clarissa Sligh ◦ Darryl Smith ◦ James Van Der Zee ◦ Carl Van Vechten ◦ Augustus Washington ◦ Lewis Watts ◦ Carrie Mae Weems ◦ Carla Williams ◦ Amanda Williams ◦ Deborah Willis ◦ Hank Willis Thomas

Albert Chong
Myra Greene Hank Willis Thomas
Albert Chong
Cousin Shirley, 1986
50.5" x 38"
On loan from the collection of the artist, Boulder, CO
Myra Greene
Untitled from the series Character Recognition, 2006
Two black glass plate ambrotypes
3"x4", 4" x 3"
On loan from the Collection of the artist, Rochester, NY
Hank Willis Thomas
Smokin’ Joe—”You think you can get me to eat my flapjacks without my Blue Bonnet®? Try it!”
from the series Unbranded,1978/2006
Courtesy of the artist and Charles Guice Contemporary
This exhibition was organized by The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Inc., Hartford, Connecticut and sponsored by Aetna.
Installation Images:
Double Exposure Installation Image Double Exposure Installation Image
Double Exposure Installation Image

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