16
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Centennial’ at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 27th April 2013

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What an admirable photographer Gordon Parks was. It is a joy to see five of his colour photographs in this posting because I have never seen any before. They are glorious, complex compositions that ebb and flow like music whilst at the same time they are also damning indictments of the racially segregated society that was America in the 1950s. The little girl looks on in Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping (1956, below), her left index finger bent upward on the pane of glass as the prettily dressed white, automaton mannequins march on, oblivious to her gaze; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama  (1956, below) are surrounded by photographs, their pose mimicking that of their parents hanging behind them, while before them on the coffee table (under glass) are other, younger members of their extended family. Past, present and future coalesce in this one poignant image.

The sensibility of Parks photographs is a refined sensitivity based on experience. “Sensibility” is based on personal impressions of pleasure or pain. These are hard-wired responses that will vary from person to person. The discrimination of men towards each other mattered to Parks, this was his hard-wired response. This was his feeling towards subject matter and that is why these wonderful photographs still matter to us today.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Jenkins Johnson Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.

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Dr Henry Louis Gates

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Gordon Parks. 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 20 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
13 7/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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In celebration of the 100th birthday of Gordon Parks, one of the most influential African American photographers of the 20th century, Jenkins Johnson Gallery in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation presents Gordon Parks: Centennial, on view from February 21 through April 27, 2013. Gordon Parks, an iconic photographer, writer, composer, and filmmaker, would have turned 100 on November 30, 2012. This will be the first solo exhibition for Parks on the West Coast in thirteen years. The exhibition will survey works spanning six decades of the artist’s career starting in 1940. The exhibition consists of more than seventy-five gelatin silver and pigment prints, including selections from Life magazine photo essays: Invisible Man, 1952; Segregation Story, 1956; The Black Panthers, 1970; and Flavio, 1960, about favelas in Brazil. Also included in the exhibition is his reinterpretation of American Gothic and his elegant depictions of artists like Alexander Calder, fashion models, and movie stars.

Noteworthy highlights include groundbreaking prints from the Invisible Man series which unfolds a visual narrative based on Ralph Ellison’s award winning novel. The images capture the essence of social isolation and the struggle of a black man who feels invisible to the outside world. Also on view will be a number of color prints from Segregation Story, 1956, which are a part of a limited edition portfolio of twelve color photographs with an essay by Maurice Berger. Newly released, these images were produced from transparencies found in early 2012, discovered in a storage box at The Gordon Parks Foundation. In the late 1960s Life magazine asked Gordon Parks to report on the Oakland, California-based Black Panther Party, including Eldridge Cleaver. Parks’ striking image of Eldridge Cleaver and His Wife, Kathleen, Algiers, Algeria, 1970 depicts Cleaver recovering from gun wounds after being ambushed by the Oakland police as well as an insert of Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the party along with Bobby Seale.

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About Gordon Parks

Parks was born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912, the youngest of fifteen children. He worked several odd jobs until he bought a camera at a Pawn Shop in 1937 in Seattle and was hired to photograph fashion at a department store in Minneapolis. In 1942 Parks received a photography fellowship from the Farm Security Administration, succeeding Dorothea Lange among others. While at the F.S.A., Parks created American Gothic, now known as one of his signature images, in which he shows Ella Watson, a cleaning women, holding a mop and broom, standing in front of an American flag. The image makes a poignant commentary on social injustice whilst referencing Grant Wood’s celebrated painting American Gothic which it is also named after. He became a freelance photographer working for Vogue as well as publishing two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948). In 1948 Parks was hired by Life magazine to do a photographic essay on Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson, which led to a permanent position at Life, where he worked for twenty years. Parks developed his skills as a composer and author and in 1969 he became the first African American to direct a major motion picture, The Learning Tree based on his best selling novel and in 1971 he directed Shaft. A true Renaissance man, Gordon Parks passed away in 2006.

As Philip Brookman, curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran, states, “Gordon Parks’ art has now changed the way we perceive and remember chronic issues, such as race, poverty, and crime, just as it has influenced our understanding of beauty: of nature, landscape, childhood, fashion, and memory.”

Press release from the Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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Gordon Parks. 'Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York' 1967

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Gordon Parks
Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
13 x 9 1/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Ellen's Feet, Harlem, New York' 1967

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Gordon Parks
Ellen’s Feet, Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 9 3/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mysticism, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
Mysticism, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches
Vintage print

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Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1949

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Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas
1949
Gelatin silver print
7 x 9 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches
Vintage print

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Gordon Parks. 'Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada' 1945

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Gordon Parks
Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada
1945
Gelatin silver print
9 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York
1952
Edition 1 of 10
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Jenkins Johnson Gallery
464 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
T: 415.677.0770

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm

Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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