The Rena Bransten Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new photographs by Dawoud Bey titled The Birmingham Project that will run through September and October, 2013.
Dawoud Bey is best known for his portrait series that introduce individuals on both sides of the camera to each other in an effort to broaden awareness of who “the others” all around us are – in our neighborhoods, schools, interest groups, community and beyond. By making his photographic subjects part of the art process, Bey hopes to expand and balance an understanding between viewer and viewed so both sides see that “the bigger picture” in any context is the shared experience of observation and recognition – where opposing sides may see what they might have in common - as humans – exchanging views.
Portraits in The Birmingham Project commemorate the four girls killed in 1963 when the 67th Street Birmingham Baptist church was bombed and the two boys killed later that same day in a separate incident of racial violence. While the source events were shocking and senseless, the pictures serve as reminders of the strength and beauty possible in the aftermath of a tragedy when healing is shared by family and community.
In these portraits, Bey photographed local Birmingham inhabitants – men, women, and children – of the same ages as the deceased and at the ages they would be today if they had survived. Surprisingly, the historical references for the portraits do not in any way burden them with sentimentality, rather, their presentation as diptychs give viewers a vision of the child plus their fulfilled potential as an adult. The warmth and charm Bey has captured in the pairings give each set a stunning and convincing immediacy showing the power of art to enhance and transform experience.
Bey has an undergraduate degree from Empire State College, S.U.N.Y. and an MFA degree from Yale University School of Art. He has exhibited widely in the US and was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial. He currently lives in Chicago and teaches at Columbia College.