In 1996, the High began commissioning photographers from across the world to engage with and explore the American South’s rich social and geographic landscape for its Picturing the South initiative. To date, the Museum has commissioned sixteen artists and has built a collection of more than two hundred fifty photographs as part of the program, which include some of the most iconic photography projects of the last quarter century.
To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Picturing the South, the High will mount a major exhibition that brings together all the commissions for the first time. Taken as a whole, the photographs amount to a complex and layered archive of the region that addresses broad themes, from the legacy of slavery and racial justice to the social implications of the evolving landscape and the distinct and diverse character of the region’s people.
Works on view will include the first photographs in Sally Mann’s Motherland series; Dawoud Bey’s over-life-size portraits of Atlanta high school students; Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley industrial landscapes; along with previous commissions by Alex Webb, Emmet Gowin, Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Kael Alford, Shane Lavalette, Abelardo Morell, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Alex Harris, and Mark Steinmetz; and new commissions by An-My Lê, Sheila Pree Bright, and Jim Goldberg, which will debut in the exhibition.
This upcoming exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam, 1960), High School Students after Black Lives Matter Protest, Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C., 2020, pigmented inkjet print, commissioned with funds from the Forward Arts Foundation. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.
Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953), Nicole and Keith, 1996, dye diffusion transfer print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and Lucinda W. Bunnen, 1996.119 a-f. © Dawoud Bey.
Nov 5, 2021–Feb 6, 2022
Picturing the South
1280 Peachtree St NE
Launched in 1996,the High Museum of Art’renowned “Picturing the South series supports contemporary photographers in creating new bodies of work inspired by the American South for the High’s collection, which is among the nation’s leading photography programs and has strength in work made in and about the region. To commemorate the series’ 25th anniversary, the High will present “Picturing the South: 25 Years” (Nov. 5, 2021-Feb. 6, 2022), which will bring together for the first time nearly 200 works from all the past commissions by artists including Dawoud Bey, Sally Mann and Richard Misrach and will debut new work by the latest photographers selected for the series, Sheila Pree Bright, Jim Goldberg and An-My Lê.
“The ‘Picturing the South’ commission and exhibition series is entirely unique among American museums for its longevity, commitment to place and diversity of artistic perspectives,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “For a quarter century, the series has called attention to the fabric of our shared experiences while concurrently highlighting what makes the South distinctive. We are thrilled to show the commissioned works collectively for the first time and to demonstrate how transformational ‘Picturing the South’ has been for the High and for the artists who’ve participated.”
Kevin W. Tucker, the High’s chief curator, added, “‘Picturing the South’ both reflects a rich legacy from the many artists represented through these commissions and acknowledges the High’s continuing dedication to collecting and exhibiting contemporary American photography.” “Picturing the South” has produced a total of 16 extraordinary bodies of work, some of which have become iconic projects for the artists, including:
Sally Mann’s major shift from portraiture to exploring the complex terrain of the Southern landscape. Dawoud Bey’s contemplative portraits of Atlanta high school students. Richard Misrach’s 10-year study of the Mississippi River’s industrialized corridor known as “Cancer Alley.” Alec Soth’s first photographs in what would become his remarkable series “Broken Manual.”
In addition to examples from those series, the exhibition will feature works from each of the other completed commissions by Kael Alford, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Emmet Gowin, Alex Harris, Shane Lavalette, Abelardo Morell, Martin Parr, Mark Steinmetz and Alex Webb. The new commissions by Bright, Goldberg and Lê each will shed light on prevailing themes and movements in the South, including racial and national identity. Bright’s mysterious black-and-white photographs of Stone Mountain, a public recreation area that surrounds the largest monument to the Confederacy, scrutinize the literal and figurative marks that the region’s history of white supremacy has left on the land. Goldberg explores expressions of contemporary dynamics of racial identity in the South, with a particular eye to how notions of whiteness are articulated in a society that regularly assumes it as the default American identity. Lê’s photographs center on the social unrest that has emerged across the country, including protests in Washington, D.C.
“The ‘Picturing the South’ photographs address broad themes, from the legacy of slavery and racial justice to the social implications of the evolving landscape and the distinct and diverse character of the region’s people,” said Gregory Harris, the High’s Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography. “The works together tell a compelling story of the contemporary South and will offer audiences a unique opportunity to see the region through the lenses of some of the best photographers working today.”
The High Museum of Art is home to one of the nation’s leading photography programs. The Museum began acquiring photographs in the early 1970s, making it among the earliest American art museums to commit to collecting the medium. With more than 8,000 prints that span the history of the medium from the 1840s to the present, the collection has particular strengths in American and European modernist traditions and documentary and contemporary photography. Holdings include the most significant museum collection of vintage civil-rights-era prints in the nation as well as important holdings by Harry Callahan, Clarence John Laughlin, Evelyn Hofer, William Christenberry, Ilse Bing, Walker Evans, Peter Sekaer and Dawoud Bey. The collection also gives special attention to pictures made in and of the South, serving as the largest and most significant repository representing the region’s important contributions to photography.
About the High Museum of Art
Located in the heart of Atlanta, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 18,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from prehistory through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process.
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