Launched in 1996, the High Museum of Art
s renowned Picturing the South series supports contemporary photographers in creating new bodies of work inspired by the American South for the Highs collection, which is among the nations leading photography programs and has strength in work made in and about the region. To commemorate the series 25th anniversary, the High presents Picturing the South: 25 Years (Nov. 5, 2021-Feb. 6, 2022), which brings together for the first time nearly 200 works from all the past commissions by artists including Dawoud Bey, Sally Mann and Richard Misrach and debuts 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 Highs 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 whove participated.
Kevin W. Tucker, the Highs chief curator, added, Picturing the South both reflects a rich legacy from the many artists represented through these commissions and acknowledges the Highs 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 Manns major shift from portraiture to exploring the complex terrain of the Southern landscape.
Dawoud Beys contemplative portraits of Atlanta high school students.
Richard Misrachs 10-year study of the Mississippi Rivers industrialized corridor known as Cancer Alley.
Alec Soths first photographs in what would become his remarkable series Broken Manual.
In addition to examples from those series, the exhibition features 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 shed light on prevailing themes and movements in the South, including racial and national identity. Brights 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 regions 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. Lês 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 regions people, said Gregory Harris, the Highs 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.
To coincide with the exhibition, the High published digital resources for Picturing the South: 25 Years comprising artwork annotations and multimedia content, including a virtual tour, on an interactive online platform.