April 16–July 12, 2009

Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey

A Chicago-based artist with an international reputation, Dawoud Bey has photographs in the collections of major institutions worldwide and has had his work exhibited at, among others, the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Portrait Gallery, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, where he was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial.

The forty portraits and writings that make their premiere in Class Pictures provide a poignant, penetrating view into the lives inside today’s American high schools. Bey made the photographs as an artist-in-residence in six schools in the Midwest and on both coasts. Each student was asked to write a one-page self-description at the beginning of his or her 45-minute session with Bey, before getting in front of the camera. Bey gets to know his subjects through the making of each portrait, and only after the student left did he read his or her description. The descriptions appear alongside the portraits as edited text.

With this traveling exhibition and its associated book, Bey hopes “to create a compelling and significant contemporary portrait of American youth in its various social and human dimensions. I believe that such a group of photographs-with the attendant texts-will constitute a significant record and examination of our time... Rather than viewing young people through a lens of social problematics that generalizes the individual, I intend to make a rich and complex description of these subjects.”

Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey is sponsored by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Contemporary Art Society, Rockwell Automation, and Joanne Murphy. Additional support provided by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s African American Art Alliance. 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.

Artist Talk and Book Signing with Opening Reception

Thursday, April 23, 6:15 p.m.
Lubar Auditorium
Free with Museum admission

Join the artist for a conversation about portraiture with Curator of Photographs Lisa Hostetler, followed by a reception and book-signing with refreshments in the Baumgartner Galleria. Co-sponsored by the African American Art Alliance and the Photography Council.



Image Credits

Dawoud Bey, Usha, 2006. From the book Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007). Image courtesy Aperture Foundation.

Dawoud Bey, Shalanta, 2003. From the book Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007). Image courtesy Aperture Foundation.

Dawoud Bey, Kevin, 2005. From the book Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007). Image courtesy Aperture Foundation.

Dawoud Bey photo by Bart Harris