[The story so far: Our intrepid traveller and his wife, the Management, has visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. While he appreciated the curves of the Frank Lloyd Wright building, he has been disappointed by the two exhibitions he has visited. All that is left is one by an unfamiliar photographer. Now read on!]
Carrie Mae Weems is an African American woman who uses her camera to show people what it means to be an African American woman. At the entrance to the exhibition is a quote from Weems:
“My responsibility as an artist is to … make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the rooftops and storm-barricaded doors and voice the specifics of our historic moment.” Quite an artist statement!
Weems produces serieses of photographs. One such series of twenty photographs called The Kichen Table Series from 1990 went along two and a half walls of the first room. They told a story of a young woman (Weems, who often models in her photographs like Cindy Sherman) and her relationship with a man and her daughter. Here are four of the series. You can find the whole series here.
The Kitchen Table Series (1990)
Each photograph is accompanied by a piece of writing by Weems. I was going to say ‘text’ but I felt that that suggested some kind of explanation or ‘gallery information’ which they definitely were not.
Another series was Ain’t Jokin’ (1987-88) which challenges African American stereotypes:
“Blackman Holding Watermelon”
A similar series American Icons (1988-89) featured ‘traditional’ representations of African Americans.
Another series called From Here I Saw What Happened And I Cried (1995-96) used ‘found’ images with captions and comments from Weems:
The final series I want to mention is Not Manet’s Type (1997) which looked at the general lack of black female models in art and their subservient role when they do appear, such as in Manet’s Olympia. I particularly enjoyed the humour of this series even while it tackled a serious subject. There are only five in the series so I’m reproducing all of them. My favourite is the one with the reference to de Kooning.
This post has only scratched the surface of the work of this remarkable woman. Regarding the question I posed at the end of my last post (“Would [this exhibition] make the journey uptown worth it?”), as Churchill the Dog would say “Oh, yes!”