Black Artists’ Perspectives of Family, Community Celebrated in New Exhibition at Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted on August 6th, 2018

– “Family Pictures” presents photographs, installations and videos by black artists inspired by the work of Roy DeCarava    –

Milwaukee, Wis. – August 6, 2018 – The Milwaukee Art Museum presents Family Pictures September 14, 2018, through January 20, 2019, an exhibition that explores the ways in which contemporary black photographers and artists have portrayed a range of familial relationships.

“The Museum’s collection has great strength in twentieth-century American photography,” said Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts Lisa Sutcliffe. “Family Pictures offers an opportunity to present a more inclusive American story in relation to how we envision the family through diverse artistic perspectives.”

The work of Roy DeCarava (American, 1919-2009) is a touchstone for the exhibition. Coming of age in Harlem during the 1940s, DeCarava reacted against what he saw as superficial stereotypes and “sociological” studies of his neighborhood by mostly white outsiders. With the aid of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1952, the artist set out to create expressive photographs of life in his community. In 1955, he published 140 pictures, along with text by Langston Hughes, in The Sweet Flypaper of Life, a fictional family album that captures genuine moments of domestic life in Harlem.

Opening with Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes’s groundbreaking 1955 book, the exhibition gathers photographic series, installations, and videos by an intergenerational group of artists, including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, and Carrie Mae Weems. Their images of family life often maneuver between intimate, everyday stories and broader political realities, between the universal human condition and the particular histories of race in the United States. As Lawson says of her work, “Every day is political, the everyday is personal.”

Family Pictures is the sort of exhibition that visitors can appreciate on a number of levels: artistically beautiful, socially meaningful and photographs people can personally connect to,” said Margaret Andera, interim chief curator and curator of contemporary art, Milwaukee Art Museum. “The exhibition’s focus on depictions of families nicely rounds out the season of home at the Museum.”

Organized by: Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

Supporting Sponsor: Milwaukee Art Museum’s African American Art Alliance

Exhibitions in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts sponsored by:
Herzfeld Foundation and Madeleine and David Lubar

Supporting events

Gallery Talks
Tues, 1:30 p.m.
Oct 9, Nov 27, and Jan 15
With Lisa Sutcliffe, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts

Kahlil Joseph: Black Mary
Sept 14, 2018–Jan 20, 2019
The contemporary American filmmaker Kahlil Joseph looked to the haunting black-and-white photography of Roy DeCarava to create his film Black Mary (2017), which is presented in conjunction with Family Pictures.

Local Luminaries
Thurs, Nov 29, 6 p.m.
Visit the exhibition with distinguished guests from the Milwaukee community, including Judge Joe Donald and Cecelia Gore, executive director of the Brewers Community Foundation, as they offer new perspectives for understanding the works on view.