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At The Art Institute | Invisible Man: Gordon Parks And Ralph Ellison In Harlem

"Curator Michal Raz-Russo provides an overview of the exhibition, which reunites for the first time the surviving photographs and texts intended for the two collaborations between Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison.

"Included in the exhibition are never-before-seen photographs by Parks from the collections of the Art Institute and the Gordon Parks Foundation and unpublished manuscripts by Ellison."


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From the Art Institute:

Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison are both recognized as major figures in American art and literature: Parks, a renowned photographer and filmmaker, was best known for his poignant and humanizing photo-essays for Life magazine. Ellison authored one of the most acclaimed and debated novels of the 20th century, Invisible Man (1952). What is less known about these two esteemed artists is that their friendship, coupled with a shared vision of racial injustices and a belief in the communicative power of photography, inspired collaboration on two projects, one in 1948 and another in 1952.

Capitalizing on the growing popularity of the picture press, Parks and Ellison first joined forces in 1948, on an essay titled "Harlem Is Nowhere," for '48: The Magazine of the Year, which focused on Harlem's Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic as a means of highlighting the social and economic effects of racism and segregation. In 1952 they again worked together, producing "A Man Becomes Invisible" for Life magazine, which illustrated scenes from Ellison's Invisible Man. Both projects aimed to make the black experience visible in postwar America, with Harlem as its nerve center. However, neither essay was published as originally conceived - the first was lost, while only a fragment of the second appeared in print.

This exhibition reunites for the first time the surviving photographs and texts intended for the two projects, including never-before-seen photographs by Parks from the collections of the Art Institute and the Gordon Parks Foundation and unpublished manuscripts by Ellison. Revealed in these frank depictions of Harlem is Ellison and Parks's symbiotic insistence on making race a larger, universal issue, finding an alternative, productive means of representing African American life, and importantly, staking a claim for the black individual within - rather than separate from - the breadth of American culture.

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From The Literate Lens: Gordon Parks: Picturing The Invisible:

Though remembered primarily as a photographer, he was a prolific writer, composer and movie director. He was also a pioneer. In 1948, he broke through racial barriers to become the first African-American to work at Life magazine.

In 1969, he was the first black man to direct a Hollywood movie - an adaptation of his own novel The Learning Tree. As if that wasn't enough, he composed the score for the movie, and went on to write several more books and direct Shaft, the first movie to feature an African-American detective.

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See also: Museums And Galleries Turn To The Work Of Gordon Parks | In the 10 years since the artist's death, interest in his work has steadily grown.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 19, 2016


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