Dawoud Bey: Two American Projects

Yale Univ. Feb. 2020. 128p. ed. by ed. by Corey Keller & Elisabeth Sherman. ISBN 9780300248500. $29.95. FINE ARTS
This volume complements a retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and is edited by curators from both institutions. A continuation of Bey’s work in portrait photography, The Birmingham Project commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL, in which four African American girls died. Bey creates a diptych of nearly symmetrical portraits of adult survivors in the community who were the same age as those children in 1963, and children in 2012 who are the same age as the four victims. The second project Night Coming Tenderly, Black is a departure for Bey as a work of landscape portraiture. It is a well studied but imagined collection of landscapes along the Underground Railroad. The low-light images appear as moments just before dawn when the world is simultaneously quiet, calm, and terrifying. Both of these haunting works resonate deeply and stay with readers.
VERDICT An important contribution to a re-imagining of American history, this book of black-and-white photographs will appeal to art lovers, history buffs, and social activists. Essays from curators, writers, and artists provide further insight into this inspired collection.
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