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Dawoud Bey | In This Here Place

September 10 – October 23, 2021

inaugural exhibition

Tree and Cabin, 2019
gelatin silver print
framed: 49 x 60 x 2 inches (124.5 x 152.4 x 5.1 cm)
edition of 6 with 2 APs 
(DB-ITHP.19.01.2)

 

Sean Kelly is delighted to present In This Here Place, Dawoud Bey's inaugural exhibition at the gallery. Bey's new body of work focuses on plantations in Louisiana, continuing the artist's ongoing examination of African American history and his efforts to make the Black past resonant in the contemporary moment. Widely heralded for his compelling portraits depicting communities and histories that have largely remained underrepresented, these new large-scale images visualize the landscape and built environment where the relationship between the enslaved and America was formed. The exhibition also marks the debut of Evergreen, a three-channel video, which continues Bey's visual investigation of memory and place within the Black imagination.

image pair 1

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass.
Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.

- Toni Morrison, Beloved

image pair 2

In This Here Place, the third, new body of work in Bey’s history series, was photographed in Louisiana, along the west banks of the Mississippi River and at the Evergreen, Destrehan, Laura, Oak Alley, and Whitney Plantations.  Spending time at each location and creating this series brought Bey face to face with the challenge of conveying this moment in history.

large image - cabin

Trees and Barn, 2019
gelatin silver print
framed: 49 x 60 x 2 inches (124.5 x 152.4 x 5.1 cm)
edition of 6 with 2 APs 
(DB-ITHP.19.04.2)

I think about a writer like Toni Morrison, who wrote epic fiction that is based on real history but it's not a mere retelling of it... It's using that history to create something that's rooted in it, amplifying it through this rigorous kind of reimagining, and being adept enough at the craft to shape it into something credible. So that people believe it. And not just believe in it but are moved by it. 

- Dawoud Bey

sugar cane caption

Sugarcane II, 2019

gelatin silver print 

framed: 49 x 60 x 2 inches (124.5 x 152.4 x 5.1 cm)

edition of 6 with 2 APs

(DB-ITHP.19.10.1)

This series portrays the physical sites of the forced labor of enslavement. Taken at sites with an unfathomably traumatic past, this series represents a deep witnessing and rich visual description, evoking the past in now unpopulated landscapes.

3 images - set 1

For all of their historical horror, these sites present themselves mutely, and the scale of these narratives can now only be suggested. Making work there has brought me face to face with the challenge of inscrutability; how to visualize and make resonant the history of Black bodies in captivity and aspiration that lingers in these haunted landscapes and buildings.

- Dawoud Bey

Tall Grass, Fence and Cabin large image

Tall Grass, Fence, and Cabin, 2019
gelatin silver print
edition of 6 with 2 APs
(DB-ITHP.19.16.3)

Through shifts in scale from intimate to vast, a heightened formal language and a descriptive materiality, the narratives of these spaces are evoked within the two-dimensional space of the black and white photographs. 

image pair 3

I have a long love affair with light and the evocative quality that light imparts on the landscape and on the subject.

- Dawoud Bey

3 images - set 2

Portraits and landscapes are very different ways of thinking about narrative within a photograph. I’ve always been highly conscious of the spaces that my portrait subjects occupied, so place has always been a kind of undercurrent in my work, as a part of narrative that contextualized individuals and situated them in the world... For me, the human presence has not disappeared entirely from my photographs. They’re just not in front of the camera.

- Dawoud Bey

image pair 4
Birmingham Project

In This Here Place is the third project in Dawoud Bey’s history series. Working his way back in time, Bey’s first series, The Birmingham Project, (2012), paid tribute to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, which took place in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. For this powerful body of work, featuring 16 diptychs (32 paired portraits), Bey created a series of photographs in which he paired two life-size portraits representing the victims of the bombing and related violence in Birmingham: one is a photograph of a young person who was the same age as one of the victims on that tragic day; the other is an image of an adult approximately 50 years older, the age that child would have been in 2013 had he or she survived.

In This Here Place is the third project in Dawoud Bey's history series. Working his way back in time, Bey's first series, The Birmingham Project, (2012), paid tribute to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, which took place in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. The second series, Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2017), departed from figuration as Bey made the landscape his subject with images of locations along the underground railroad.

I wanted to engage the idea of the passage of time, and the fact that those young people never had a chance to live out their lives, I decided to make portraits of African American adults in Birmingham who were the ages they would have been had their lives not been cut short… All of the adults in the photos remembered that Sunday morning; a few of them knew the girls who were killed, since they would have been the same ages.

night coming image

Dawoud Bey’s second series Night Coming Tenderly, Black, (2017) departs from figuration and reimagines sites along the last stops of the Underground Railroad. This network of secret routes and safe houses, established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century, was used by enslaved people to escape into free states in the North and Canada. Using both real and imagined sites, these richly toned photographs seek to recreate the spatial and sensory experiences of those figures moving furtively through the darkness of night towards freedom. The title of Bey’s series comes from the final line of Langston Hughes’s poem Dream Variations, 1926: “Night coming tenderly/Black like me.” Bey’s silvery images illustrating darkened twilight scenes of homes and wooded landscapes parallel the sensory portrayal of Hughes’s poem as both describe the aspirations of freedom from racial discrimination.

3 images - set 3

All of the other plantations in the series, besides Evergreen, have been significantly altered over time. Bey’s three-channel video Evergreen is a poetic examination of the landscape of Evergreen Plantation. Imani Uzuri’s vocals create a sonic landscape adding a moving and human presence to the unpopulated film.

palm trees image

Cabin and Palm Trees, 2019
gelatin silver print
framed: 49 x 60 x 2 inches (124.5 x 152.4 x 5.1 cm)
edition of 6 with 2 APs 
(DB-ITHP.19.12.2)

Exhibition Film
 

Exhibition Press: 

Hyperallergic Your Concise New York Art Guide for September 2021 By Cassie Packard, August 31, 2021

The Boston Globe To Matter to the Vewer: Dawoud Bey: An American Project By Mark Feeney, August 12, 2021

Artnews Editors’ Picks: 10 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week By Artnet News, September 6, 2021

Judd Tully Dawoud Bey at the Whitney and the Sean Kelly Gallery By Judd Tully, September 29, 2021

Irrigation Ditch image

Irrigation Ditch, 2019
gelatin silver print
framed: 49 x 60 x 2 inches (124.5 x 152.4 x 5.1 cm)
edition of 6 with 2 APs 
(DB-ITHP.19.23.3)

Evergreen and eight photographs from In This Here Place will be exhibited as part of Prospect.5 Yesterday We Said Tomorrow in New Orleans, October 2021.

Bey’s work is currently the subject of a major career exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project, currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This traveling exhibition was co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art and also traveled to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

The challenge in the future will be to make sure that the works of Black artists are written about, talked about, and published alongside non-Black artists, to realize that this work is American art made by a Black artist, and that is part of an ongoing continuation of the evolution of American art.

- Dawoud Bey