If you've been to the museum's Modern Wing in the last few months, you may have seen Dawoud Bey: Harlem U.S.A., an exhibition by the famed Chicago photographer that explores his early work on the streets of Harlem. But there's another aspect to this exhibition that you may have missed. Located about 200 meters away at the bottom of the Grand Staircase is a selection of ten photographs taken by artists who inspired Bey's own photography. Bey not only curated the selection, but also wrote the labels, explaining what he found interesting about each artist and how they influenced different ways of thinking about his work.
Bey attended Harlem on my Mind at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was just 16, seeing works from artists like James VanDerZee (above). This exhibition was significant to Bey not only because of the reference to Harlem, but because it was the first time he had seen African Americans on a museum wall. Artists like VanDerZee also gave the young Bey the sense that ordinary black people were worthy of sustained attention. Similarly, Bey was introduced to photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and August Sander at a relatively early age. These "street" photographers illustrated both the importance of waiting for "momentary poetic harmony," but also of photographing your subject in the places they live and work. But perhaps most importantly, as Bey said in his introduction to the installation, these artists taught him to "dispel with any preconceived ideas I may have about the community I was photographing, and instead respond as honestly as I could to what the people themselves presented to me." While Bey's work might have changed since this early series, his photography still retains a sensitivity to composition and an honesty to his subjects.
This weekend is your last chance to see both Harlem, U.S.A. and the companion exhibition.
Image Credit: James VanDerZee. Monte Carlo Sporting Club, 1934. Restricted Gift of Anstiss and Ronald Krueck in memory of her mother, Florence Pierson Hammond.
20 hours 15 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—This classic bronze sculpture depicts the Hindu divinity Shiva as the Lord of the Dance. His cosmic dance sets in motion the rhythm of life and death, with his right foot planted firmly on top of Apasmāra, the demon of darkness and ignorance.
Now on view in the Alsdorf Galleries.
1 day 17 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT The Art Institute's main building was originally constructed for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Our famous lions were added later that year and have been "guarding" the museum ever since.
2 days 20 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS—See #VanGoghsBedrooms before the show ends May 10.
This unprecedented exhibition unites all three versions of Van Gogh’s Bedroom paintings for the first time in North America, offering an innovative yet intimate look at one of the most beloved and often-misunderstood artists of all time.