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.
4 hours 6 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago This bronze by Daniel Chester French is a reduced version of the full-size statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which French worked on with the architect Henry Bacon. The Lincoln Memorial has remained a cherished destination at the National Mall since its dedication in 1922.
Find French's historic depiction of Lincoln in our galleries of American art.
2 days 6 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Abstract Experiments: Latin American Art on Paper after 1950
During the mid-20th century, Latin American artists were active in the evolving international discourse on modernity, at a time of industrial expansion and political transformation in South America.
Abstract Experiments provides an illuminating complement to Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium and reflects the Art Institute’s recent efforts to expand its holdings of Latin American painting, sculpture, and works on paper.
3 days 13 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium
The Art Institute presents the first U.S. retrospective of this groundbreaking Brazilian artist. A relentless innovator always pushing the boundaries of art, Oiticica is arguably the most influential Latin American artist of the post–World War II period and is recognized for inspiring Tropicália, a powerful movement that influenced art across media in Brazil.
In addition to viewing his early works on paper, visitors are invited to take off their shoes and walk through immersive sand-filled installations, view Amazonian parrots, and try on wearable objects designed by the artist.