November 16 through December 9, 2017
Andrew Freedman Home • 1125 Grand Concourse • Bronx, NYC
Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents: Freedom, will present ways in which the fluidity of racial and gender imagery can inform literature, education, and media.
Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents showcases the photographer’s work, and Black Documents: Freedom presents five photographers who are similarly dedicated to documenting segments of black lives. Both exhibitions will work in tandem to build a liberating visual narrative.
Historically, black and brown bodies have been instruments of wealth-building or frivolity, posed to amuse or titillate. Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents will serve as a counterbalance to the piecemeal aggregation of media images that frequently misrepresent large sections of the American population. Shabazz’s work renders blackness not as eroticized mythology or criminal aftermath, but as heroic iconography that pushes diasporic Africans toward the center of the American photographic aesthetic. This exhibit is presented as evidence against contemporary media narratives that often place blackness as culprit. What James Baldwin referred to as “the bloody catalog of oppression” has memed with appalling regularity and is underpinned by images of Philando Castille, Eric Garner, and 12-year old Tamir Rice. And the list of women killed under suspicious circumstances has grown so long we’re implored to #SayHerName: Sandra Bland, Michelle Cusseaux, and Maya Hall among others. But In the same way the barbarized face of Emmett Till demanded we not look away, Shabazz’s work provides a place of solace.
Shabazz affirms pride of place in an activist’s purposeful way. He uses anonymity as uniform and badge instilling a stolid bravery and love of humanity. Each photo girds the black psyche and demonstrates spiritual ownership of the land on which the subject stands. These photographs are crucial documents of Black New York in the turbulent decades of the 70s through the present.
Jamel Shabazz, born in Red Hook, Brooklyn to working-class parents, was gifted his first camera by his father in 1975. “While most children my age were reading comic books, I was studying all of my father’s photographic books and publications with a keen eye. So by the time I picked up my first camera a few years later, I had a basic understanding of composition and subject matter, and the rest is history.” –Dazed Magazine
Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents strips away aspirational metaphors and presents these photographic documents in their prideful beauty.
Shabazz’s exhibit is complemented by Black Documents: Freedom, photographic works by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Lola Flash, Danny Ramon Peralta, Edwin Torres, and Michael Young. Their photos offer a contemplative appraisal of conversations between lens and subject, and give further agency to black lives. All share a similar aesthetic path as Shabazz while exploring a variety of social, gender, and urban geographies.
Together, Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents: Freedom work to frame black and brown identities while using the influential cultural vibrancy that is found in the Bronx and beyond.
Exhibitions curator Laura James is a professional artist and illustrator with over twenty-five years of experience. Recent curatorial projects include group exhibitions Guerillas in the Midst Remix, Hot or Cold, and Bronx Now. In spring 2017, Ms. James will present a retrospective exhibition of the legendary graffiti artists TATS CRU at BronxArtSpace. Laura James is also the executive director of BX200.com, a directory of Bronx-based visual artists that programs exhibitions, artist talks, and panels throughout New York City. Photo credit: Janis Wilkins