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Photographic Portraits of People Opens at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art
Dennis Morris, Sister Cool, 1974. Giclée prints, 40 x 30 inches. © Dennis Morris. Dr. Kenneth Montague/ The Wedge Collection.
DURHAM, N.C.- An exhibition featuring more than 100 original photographic portraits of people of color opened yesterday at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The exhibition, “Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection,” is a series of portraits taken over the past 100 years by more than 60 global artists. In some portraits, the subjects have little or no control over the way they are depicted; in others, the subjects become increasingly involved with the photographer.

All of the artists reject a common tendency to view black communities in terms of conflict or stereotype. “Becoming” includes studio portraitists (Malick Sidibé, James VanDerZee), social documentarians (Milton Rogovin, Jürgen Schadeberg), conceptual artists (Hank Willis Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems) and young contemporary artists whose work is largely unknown in this country (Zanele Muholi, Viviane Sassen).

The work is on loan from the private collection of Dr. Kenneth Montague, who organized the exhibition. Montague, a dentist based in Toronto, has collected contemporary art since the 1990s. He grew up in the Canadian border town of Windsor, where he was influenced by the African American culture across the river, in Detroit.

“This important exhibition reveals Ken Montague’s incredible eye as a collector and his vision as a curator,” said Trevor Schoonmaker, Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art. “The Wedge Collection is both daring and globally expansive while staying focused on the exploration of black identity. It stands out as a truly unique art collection.”

Montague said he “grew up asking the question, ‘Who am I?’ and I am drawn to artists who search for that same answer. The portraits in ‘Becoming’ reflect memory, nostalgia, history, achievement and promise. These things are all important to me.”

The exhibition is complemented by a talk by Montague and Schoonmaker on Sept. 27, two film screenings, an “Art for All” event with the North Carolina Central University Art Museum on Nov. 10, free Family Day events, K-12 teacher workshops and more.

“Becoming” includes the work of several artists who will also be featured in a concurrent exhibition of African American portraits, “Let Your Motto Be Resistance,” at the North Carolina Central University Art Museum, opening Nov. 6. The exhibition is supported by Paula and Eugene Flood, the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Duke and Dr. Gail Belvett.



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