This exhibition at the Keith de Lellis Gallery highlights the ability toAnthony Barboza to use the camera as a tool to establish an empowering narrative of hope for the black community in America during a historic time of inequality and adversity.
From the 1960s to the present day, Anthony Barboza (b. 1944 in New Bedford, MA) has had a long career in photography. One of the most important African-American photographers of his generation, Barboza poetically captures the resilient spirit of black life in America by engaging with his subjects on a personal level. He left Massachusetts for New York and joined the Kamoinge Workshop in 1963, an important movement of African-American artists who worked together to redefine African-American art, images and representations, then led by the acclaimed photographer critic Roy DeCarava. Barboza was introduced to other like-minded artists through this workshop, including Louis Draper, Adger Cowans, Shawn Walker and Ray Francis, all of whom became a source of support for Barboza. Portraits of Ming Smith, the first female artist to join Kamoinge, are featured in this exhibition, including candid shots working in the studio and posed portraits around New York.
Barboza’s birth corresponded to the early years of Johnson Publishing which focused on African-American life. This generated new opportunities for black photographers, empowering them to be both subject and storyteller, empowered with the ability to control their own images and narratives. John H. Johnson founded the publishing house in Chicago with his first journal Negro Digest in 1942, followed byebony in 1945. Jet magazine appeared in 1951 when young Barboza was still in elementary school. Seeing people and cultures he recognized on a national front cover opened up new possibilities and aspirations for Barboza. As he matured during the post-World War II era, he witnessed the dramatic changes in the nation’s socio-political landscape that would come to lay the groundwork for the modern era of civil rights, where his generation would lead a more ardent discourse. on race and representation in the United States.
While in Florida between 1965 and 1968, Barboza’s camera became a tool to address the injustices he witnessed while living in the South. His photography Come on Children, Let’s Sing (1968) shows six children on the porch of a poor local family home. Taken the year Martin Luther King Jr. launched his nationwide campaign to recruit participants to fight poverty, the photograph documents the faces of those most affected by economic injustice and lack of access to opportunities. Liberty (1966) poignantly echoes a similar sentiment, where we see on a “LIBERTY” sign whose letters crumble on a dark wall that testifies to the inequality and hardships endured by the black community in their own country. . With just one click of the camera shutter, Barboza captures the complicated stories and narratives he lived through.
Barboza’s work has been acclaimed by many critics and historians, including Aaron Bryant, curator of photography and visual culture at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, who said “Barboza captured moments seriousness of humanity. He has produced a body of work that reflects a range of artistic genres, subjects and cultural memories. Viewers take part in his visual exchange of thought and imagination to discover that they are part of a culture that interprets the world in a similar way. Poet, prophet and reformer all in one, Barboza reflects the narratives of cultural history and memory through his photography”. Hilton Als, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and critic, wrote that “what ultimately elevates Barboza’s work inside and outside the studio is his belief in humanity, in a way that recognizes how we all own the copyright to our own lives and the stories we agree to tell about ourselves are always true stories, worthy of respect and attention. Barboza helps us reveal the pages of our individual stories and therefore to the world. Ultimately, Barboza’s gift is the dignity we hope for and find within ourselves, magically buried in his camera lens.”
The photographer considers himself both an observer and a participant in the environment, as evidenced by the two self-portraits presented in this exhibition, taken in the 1970s, which explore the complexities of depth, perspective and the surreal and striking contrast between Barboza’s shadow and surrounding light. His experience with lighting and his determination to capture a feeling in everyday scenes prevail throughout his work, as Barboza himself said that “photography finds you, you don’t find photography. When she finds you, it means you are open enough to allow her to come to you, and then you get her. You’re walking down the street, and you’re in the rhythm, and all of a sudden you see something. You go into a kind of dream state”. His keen sense of composition is evident in Watching Marilyn Monroe (1970s), where minimalist composition works to transform Warhol’s painting of Marilyn Monroe into a hallway through a dreamlike illusion of depth. (Eye Dreaming 2022).
Barboza’s photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Life Magazine and Essence. His work is in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, New Jersey State Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Studio Museum of Harlem, Cornell University, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, as well as private and corporate collections.
Anthony Barboza: Moments of Humanity
Until January 14, 2023
Keith de Lellis Gallery
41 E 57th St #703
New York, NY 10022
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Keith de Lellis Gallery: Anthony Barboza: Moments of Humanity – The Eye of Photography Magazine