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Aaron Siskind: Formations

October 31, 2022–March 12, 2023

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903–1991) was one of the most influential figures in the development of photography as an art form during the twentieth century. This exhibition, drawn from UMBC’s Photography Collections, traces the formation of this artist’s unique photographic vision from early documentary works made in Harlem as a member of the New York Film and Photo League in the 1930s to his breakthrough explorations of abstraction in the 1940s and 1950s, which led to a sustained investigation of the camera’s capacity to frame new visual forms. The 55 works on display represent every period of the artist’s career, including architectural studies made on Martha’s Vineyard, the exuberant series, Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation, featuring images of divers’ bodies suspended in air, and impressions from his travels throughout Europe and Latin America. Through his photographs and his role as an educator, first at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and later at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Siskind made an indelible mark on the field, uncovering expressive possibilities from the raw material of reality

Cover Image: Aaron Siskind, Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation: No. 37, 1953. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 9 1/2 in. Library Purchase, The Photography Collections, UMBC (P78-26-001) © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

black and white abstract image of the side of a building
Aaron Siskind, New York, 1950. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24in. Gift of Brough Schamp and Dr. Carole Newill, The Photography Collections, UMBC (P2021-16-002)
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Aaron Siskind, Paris 50, 1977. Gelatin silver print, 8 1/2 x 10in. Gift of Victor Schrager,
The Photography Collections, UMBC (P2021-31-100)
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Categories

Sonya Clark: Hair/Craft

October 31, 2022–March 12, 2023

Sonya Clark (b. 1967) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores issues of identity, race, cultural heritage, and collective memory. This exhibition presents five works in which Clark applies fiber-art techniques to the medium of hair, a material laden with cultural and metaphorical significance. In these works, strands of hair represent ancestral bonds, hairstyles connote intimacy and convey Black visibility and identity, and combs bare teeth to show how hair has been an instrument of political resistance across the African diaspora. Clark interweaves her material with historical, literary, and musical allusions ranging from the biography of Madam C. J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire, whose wealth derived from her business selling hair care products to Black women, to the hymn “Life Every Voice and Sing,” known as the unofficial Black National Anthem. Engaging craft traditions, Clark unravels the narrative threads that bind issues of contemporary importance to the past and refashions potent cultural symbols from everyday objects.

This exhibition was made possible in collaboration with Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark

Cover Image: Sonya Clark, Hair Craft Project with Dionne, 2014. Pigment print on archival paper, 29 x 29 inches. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark.


Public Programming

Harmonies of Liberty: Artist talk with Sonya Clark

Thursday, November 3, 4–6pm

In-person with simultaneous streaming via dreshercenter.umbc.edu

In this talk, held in conjunction with the Dresher Center for the Humanities Daphne Harrison Lecture, artist Sonya Clark will discuss artwork inspired by the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” –work that she has produced in harmony with musicians that centers collaboration, innovation, craft, and design as a means to uplift suppressed voices.

Co-sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities; the Department of Visual Arts; the Center for Innovation, Research, and Creativity in the Arts; and the Department of Africana Studies.

Image: Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, 2021. Diptych made of pigment print on punctured piano paper. 11 1/4 x 14in. each. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark.


an afro wig with a block of combs in the center that have been woven through with colorful thread
Sonya Clark, For Colored Girls, A Rainbow, O1, 2019. Wig, cast plastic combs, wrapped thread, 12 x 12 x 3in. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery & Sonya Clark.
two black women, one faces away from the camera to show an intricate hairstyle, the other faces the camera in the background, in soft focus
Sonya Clark, Hair Craft Project with Anita, 2014. Pigment print on archival paper, 29 x 29in. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Sonya Clark.

A Black woman is standing outside and smiling at the camera. She is wearing a red wrap on her head and a black and white top

Biography: Sonya Clark is Professor of Art at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Previously, she was a Distinguished Research Fellow in the School of the Arts and Commonwealth Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) where she served as chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department from 2006 until 2017. In 2016, she was awarded a university-wide VCU Distinguished Scholars Award. Her work has been exhibited in over 350 museum and galleries in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. She is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner award, an 1858 Prize, an Art Prize Grand Jurors Award, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Most recently, she was an inaugural recipient of the Black Rock Senegal Residency Fellowship.

Photo by Andrew Smith

Categories

Prison Nation

August 22–October 14

Most prisons and jails across the United States do not allow prisoners to have access to cameras. At a moment when an estimated 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., 3.8 million people are on probation, and 870,000 former prisoners are on parole, how can images tell the story of mass incarceration when the imprisoned don’t have control over their own representation? How can photographs visualize a reality that disproportionately affects people of color, and, for many, remains outside of view? Coinciding with Aperture Magazine’s issue, “Prison Nation,” this exhibition addresses the unique role photography plays in creating a visual record of this national crisis, despite the increasing difficulty of gaining access inside prisons.

Since its early years, photography has been used to create and reinforce typologies of criminality, often singling out specific groups of people. Today, it is essential for photographers to provide urgent counterpoints and move beyond simplistic descriptions of the “criminal” or the imprisoned. Much of the work gathered here—from a recently discovered archive at San Quentin in California to portraits of prisoners participating in a garden program at Rikers Island in New York City or performing a passion play at Louisiana’s Angola prison, a facility located on the site of a former slave plantation—underscores the humanity and individuality of those incarcerated. Some projects explore the prison as an omnipresent feature of the American landscape, often serving as a local economic engine, or delve into the living conditions and social systems of prisons, while others address the difficult process of reentering society after incarceration. One series was produced in prison: Jesse Krimes made hundreds of image transfers with prison-issued soap while he served a five-year sentence.

Incarceration impacts all of us. Americans, even those who have never been to a prison or had a relative incarcerated, are all implicated in a form of governance that uses prison as a solution to many social, economic, and political problems. Empathy and political awareness are essential to creating systemic change—and through this exhibition, and the accompanying series of public programs, “Prison Nation” may provoke us to see parts of ourselves in the lives of those on the inside.

Prison Nation is organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. Nicole R. Fleetwood and Michael Famighetti, curators.

This exhibition was made possible with lead support from the Ford Foundation. Additional generous support was provided by the Reba Judith Sandler Foundation.

Cover Image: Stephen Tourlentes, Wyoming State Death House Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming, 2000, from the series Of Length andMeasures: Prison and the American Landscape, 1996–ongoing. Courtesy the artist andCarroll and Sons, Boston


Young woman in sweater holding her hand in front of her face

Public Programming

Panel Discussion: Art From the Inside

September 27th, 5-7pm

Lorenzo Steele Jr., Lynn Cazabon, Oletha DeVane and Tadia Rice will discuss their experiences working with incarcerated individuals and the importance of art in giving a face to those behind bars.

Zora J Murff, Megan at 16, 2014, from the series Corrections, 2013–15. Courtesy the artist.


Four young men pose for the camera in stylish clothes
Jamel Shabazz, Pretrial detainees all part of the “House Gang” (sanitation workforce) pose in the day room of their housing area, Rikers Island, 1986. Courtesy the artist.
Five men pose behind a drum set. One rests his arms on an electric bass guitar
Photographer unknown, Prison Rock Band, San Quentin State Prison, June 26, 1975.Courtesy Nigel Poor, San Quentin Archive, and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.