The words and faces of forty students make up a penetrating view into contemporary American youth in Dawoud Bey: Class Pictures, on view April 16-July 12, 2009 at the Milwaukee Art Museum
. A compelling juxtaposition of first- and third-person perspectives, the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue challenge teenage stereotypes as they present a highly diverse portrait of a generation. The occasion brings Bey to the Museum for an artist talk and reception on Thursday, April 23, 2009.
To create Class Pictures, Dawoud Bey spent three to four weeks in each of seventeen public and private schools on both coasts and in the Midwest , taking formal portraits of individual students. Each of the forty photographs on view is made in a classroom or other school setting during one forty-five-minute period. At the start of the sitting, each subject writes a brief autobiographical statement. By turns poignant, funny, or harrowing, these revealing words are an integral part of the project, and appear alongside each photograph in the exhibition.
Together, the words and images in Class Pictures offer unusually respectful and perceptive portraits that establish Dawoud Bey as one of the best portraitists at work today. For the past fifteen years, the artist has made striking, large-scale color portraits of students at high schools across the United States . Depicting teenagers from a wide economic, social, and ethnic spectrumand intensely attentive to their poses and gestureshe has created a supremely nuanced group portrait of young America .
Aperture, a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts, has organized this traveling exhibition and produced the accompanying publications. The exhibition is coordinated at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Curator of Photographs Lisa Hostetler. The exhibition is sponsored by the Milwaukee Art Museum 's Contemporary Arts Society, Rockwell Automation, and Joanne Murphy.
Dawoud Bey (b. New York , 1953) earned his MFA from Yale University School of Art and is professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago. He has been featured in numerous exhibitionsincluding a mid-career survey at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in 1995and received several awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Bey has exhibited photographs in institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Detroit Institute of Arts; National Portrait Gallery, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial.