Barbara and Mother

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  • Provenance

    Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1979, Rochester, NY
    Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

    2004 MFA, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
    2001 BFA, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

    Selected honors: Guggenheim Fellowship (2013), Aaron Siskind Fellowship (2009)
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; PS 1, Queens, NY; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York
    Selected public collections: Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, MoCA, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York

    Deana Lawson’s strikingly intimate photographs examine themes of family, cultural legacy, sexuality, spirituality and employ black aesthetics as the cornerstone of her distinctive oeuvre. Her works draw upon visual traditions such as formal portraiture, social documentary, and personal family albums, expertly recording social narratives of African American day-to-day life in contemporary America. Her highly stylized compositions are remarkable in their meticulous staging – they are, in the artist’s own words, “a mirror of everyday life, but also a projection of what I want to happen. It’s about setting a different standard of values and saying that everyday black lives, everyday experiences, are beautiful, and powerful, and intelligent.”

    Lawson’s subjects are often strangers she meets in public spaces, yet she refers to them as “her family”. She arranges her models in domestic settings, paying particular attention to lighting and pose, which the artist utilizes to transform and intensify these intimate spaces. Lawson painstakingly arranges her subjects – a young man holding up a West Side symbol, a mother cradling her crying child, and an elderly woman she met at a corner store with a prosthetic foot – and her environments – lace curtains, plastic couch covers, and peeling wallpaper. She embraces her models’ bodies, their lives, and their collective histories, explaining: “they are displaced kings and queens of the diaspora. There’s something beautiful and powerful that hasn’t been taken away”.

    Lawson was the recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, affording her the opportunity to practice photography on an international scale. Recently, her large-scale work, Ring Bearer, 2016, was exhibited at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and earlier this year the artist had her first solo show with Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York.


Barbara and Mother

pigment print
69 x 55 in. (175.3 x 139.7 cm.)
Executed in 2017, this work is number 4 from an edition of 4.

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New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019