Dawoud Bey's "An American Project" Finally Opens at the Whitney
After repeated pandemic-related openings, closings, and reopenings at both SFMOMA and The High Museum of Art, Dawoud Bey's survey exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project will finally open at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Blissfully unaware of what was to come, we got a chance to write about and see the wonderful exhibition in San Francisco before everything shut down. If you can, make sure you check it out.
Dawoud Bey is recognized as one of the most innovative and influential photographers of his generation. Since the beginning of his career, Bey has used his camera to visualize communities and histories that have largely remained underrepresented or even unseen. Starting with his earliest body of work, Harlem, USA (1975–79), Bey has worked primarily in portraiture, making direct and psychologically resonant portrayals of socially marginalized subjects. The exhibition includes his early portraits of Harlem residents, large-scale color Polaroids, and a series of collaborative portraits of high school students, among others. Two recent bodies of work, The Birmingham Project (2012) and Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2017), render American history in forms at once lyrical and immediate. He sees making art as not just a kind of personal expression but as an act of social and political engagement, emphasizing the necessary work of artists and art institutions to break down obstacles to access, to convene communities, and to open dialogue.