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First large-scale museum retrospective dedicated to exploring contemporary artist's work opens
Family Reunion, from Family Pictures and Stories, 1978–84. Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953). Gelatin silver print; 30 x 40 in. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. © Carrie Mae Weems.

CLEVELAND, OH.- The Cleveland Museum of Art presents Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, an exhibition showcasing nearly 125 examples of the artist’s intellectually challenging and aesthetically compelling work. Visitors will have the opportunity to see photographs, installations, audio pieces and video selected from six museums, several private collections and the artist’s own holdings. The exhibition offers a survey of Weems’s thirty-year exploration studying the universal human journey, in which she often focuses on relationships pertaining to race, gender and class. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s presentation of Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video is on view June 30 to September 29, 2013 in the museum’s Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery and Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Gallery. The exhibition then travels to the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, Stanford University and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City. Previously, the exhibition was on view at the organizing museum, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville and the Portland Art Museum, Oregon.

Comprehensive in scope, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video traces the evolution of Weems’s career from her early documentary and autobiographical photographic series to the more conceptual and philosophically complex works that have placed her in the forefront of contemporary art. “Experiencing Weems’s art in person can be a powerful transformative experience,” said Dr. Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography. “Her work is strong yet subtle, lyrical and beautiful even when analyzing and critiquing sordid moments from the past. Using history as a cautionary tale, Weems’s skillfully woven narratives awaken in the viewer the understanding and empathy that are keys to creating a better future.”

All the major themes that have engaged Weems are represented in the exhibition. Selections from the late 1970s through 1990 explore the construction of identity, especially as it relates to race, sex and class, as seen in Family Pictures and Stories and the renowned Kitchen Table Series. From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995-96) and May Days Long Forgotten (2002) respond to historical situations that have impacted African American identity, as well as that of other disempowered peoples. Photographs that focus on the role of place in Weems’s examination of the underlying causes and effects of racism, slavery and imperialism include images from the Sea Islands Series, Slave Coast, Africa and Dreaming in Cuba. A notion of universality is present throughout: while African-Americans are typically her primary subjects, Weems wants “people of color to stand for the human multitudes” and for her art to resonate with audiences of all races.

Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video is organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee.

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