Dawoud Bey: Harlem, U.S.A.

Overview

In 1979, when African-American photographer Dawoud Bey showed twenty-five photographs at the Studio Museum in Harlem under the heading Harlem U.S.A., the exhibition offered a young artist's vision of a moment in the neighborhood's life. Published here as a complete set for the first time, Dawoud Bey: Harlem U.S.A. also includes five previously unpublished photographs from the same period. Bey's vintage images are given new context in an essay by emerging African-American writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, who undertook...

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Overview

In 1979, when African-American photographer Dawoud Bey showed twenty-five photographs at the Studio Museum in Harlem under the heading Harlem U.S.A., the exhibition offered a young artist's vision of a moment in the neighborhood's life. Published here as a complete set for the first time, Dawoud Bey: Harlem U.S.A. also includes five previously unpublished photographs from the same period. Bey's vintage images are given new context in an essay by emerging African-American writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, who undertook her own fascinating study of Harlem in 2011.

Bey, who grew up in Queens with family roots in Harlem, has become one of most widely acclaimed portraitists on the contemporary scene. This handsome book, with faithful duotone reproductions, provides a wonderful opportunity to revisit a classic portfolio of images that still resonates in today's culture.

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Editorial Reviews

ARTNews - Rebecca Robertson

“Collected in this book and recently shown again at the Studio Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, [these] images are still striking for the joy and grace Bey found in a neighborhood in upheaval.”—Rebecca Robertson, ARTnews 
Library Journal
With this slim volume of 30 duotone photographs, readers are invited to revisit the Harlem of the 1970s. Edited by Witkovsky (Foto: Modernity in Central Europe: 1918–1945), the photographs in the book were originally displayed in 1979 at the Studio Museum in Harlem; the book also includes five images not previously exhibited. All images are posed snapshots of Harlem residents; Bey captures a pause in the middle of each subject's day. The appeal of the work comes from its timelessness—despite the elements of 1970s fashion, Bey's photographic subjects could live comfortably in any decade of the 20th century. However, part of the fun is identifying those details that do date the photographs, such as an Isley Brothers concert flyer tacked to a telephone pole and a movie ticket window with $2 admission prices. VERDICT While Bey's work is an excellent study in hand-held photography and casual portraiture, it is particularly enjoyable as a brief escape into the Harlem of over 30 years ago. Accessible, engaging, and suitable for readers of all abilities, including middle school and high school students.—Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Ctr., Laramie, WY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300181265
  • Publisher: Art Institute of Chicago
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 8.11 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author


Matthew S. Witkovsky is chair and Ellen and Richard Sandor Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the editor of Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life (Yale). Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is the author of Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America.
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