The Bronx Honors Gordon Parks

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This past Monday as I was running my errands in the neighborhood, I ran across this new exhibit at the College of New Rochelle’s Gordon Parks Gallery.

Although it was closed when I walked by, I was pleased that Jeffrey Guard at the Bronx Art Exchange had just written about it so allow me to share with you a little more on the exhibit honoring the gallery’s namesake.

“…Gordon Parks was many things, a photographer, composer, filmmaker, writer and activist. His life-journey was filled with extraordinary challenges including losing his mother at 14 and shortly thereafter having to fend for himself on the streets. During the early and mid 20th century he had to fight against the ugly specter of racism that would often deny him one career-making opportunity after another. 

Yet, despite these obstacles his talent found its way to the light and, gratefully, all of us can enjoy some of his work; a series of portraits that he took during the 1940’s-1960’s. Most of them are ORIGINAL black and white portraits, composite images of various African Americans ranging from an ordinary husband and wife on their way to church, to the famous and all-powerful Muhammad Ali (after destroying Henry Cooper in the famous 1966 Heavy Weight World Champion Fight held in London.) 

His technique and innate mastery of composition, light and the use of negative and positive space all seem effortless. Each of these portraits has a depth to them that could fill a novel. His portrait American Gothic illustrates this most effectively. A slender African-American woman is photographed standing in front of an American flag hold in one hand a broom and in the other a mop. It’s a powerful statement for so many who were relegated to the back-breaking, physically demanding positions of labor without any hope for other career prospects. 

All of these images, some might say, ordinary pictures of folk would most likely never have been captured, were it not for Gordon Parks. In dealing with institutionalized racism he captured everyone else who had also been swept to the sidelines of opportunity. But he did not do so from the perspective of victimhood—in fact, if you did not know the history of the US they would otherwise seem like ordinary people just going through things. It’s precisely this aspect that gives the work its longevity. 

For any photographer or visual art lover, visiting the Gordon Parks Gallery will truly be a revelation if you have never seen his work or are becoming acquainted with him for the first time.”

Read the review in its entirety at BAXNYC.

A big thanks to The Bronx Art Exchange for always keeping us abreast on the Bronx art scene!

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