What does it mean to be American? In a period of mass political disruption, this question is more complex than ever. Dawoud Bey’s (b. 1953), An American Project delves into themes of US identity and belonging, joining a roster of artist’s portfolios under the same title. The exhibition plots four decades of work from Bey, presenting a rich mix of street photography, studio portraiture and shadowy landscapes.
The show features 80 works which challenge social barriers and emphasise the political power of photography. Bey’s intimate pictures examine African American experiences, offering a honest and inclusive portrayal of marginalised groups from the late 20th century to today. For example, the artist’s iconic series, Harlem, USA (1975-1978), is central to the exhibition, revealing poetic tales of friendship, family and leisure time which shine a new light on the inner-city environment. Bey focuses on the importance of individual stories, reflecting: “[I want] to describe the subject in a way that’s as complex as the experiences of anyone else. It is meant to reshape the world, one person at a time.”
Showing at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 15 February. Find out more here.
Lead image: Dawoud Bey, A Women Waiting in the Doorway, Harlem, NY, from the series Harlem, U.S.A, 1976; courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery and Rena Bransten Gallery; © Dawoud Bey.
1. Dawoud Bey, Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, from the series Harlem, U.S.A, 1978; courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery and Rena Bransten Gallery; © Dawoud Bey.