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Exhibition by noted photographer Dawoud Bey opens June 17 at Beach Museum of Art

Tuesday, June 3, 2014



MANHATTAN — If a picture speaks a thousand words, Dawoud Bey's portraiture has been providing a conversation on society and how we view ourselves for nearly 40 years.

A collection of Bey's thought-provoking photographs are featured in an exhibition opening June 17 at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University. "Dawoud Bey: Picturing People" will run through Oct. 5 in the museum's Marion Pelton Gallery.

Since 1975, Bey, who is a photographer, artist, essayist and professor at Columbia College Chicago, has developed a body of work distinguished for its commitment to portraiture as a means of reflecting social circumstances. Ranging from street encounters to studio portraits, Bey's photographic methods are aimed at increasing engagement with his subjects.

'Picturing People' is a comprehensive look at Bey's work, providing an opportunity to explore subjects such as the presentation of self, race, site and the relationship between artist and subject.

"Visually, Bey's portraits are stunning. And they're smart, too. He's a scholar as well as an artist, and that knowledge of the history of photography shows in the way he constructs his images," said Theresa Bembnister, associate curator at the Beach Museum.

The exhibition includes selections from Bey's work spanning from 1982 to the present. Seven bodies of work comprise the exhibition and include: small camera street photographs, taken from 1981-1988; large format black-and-white street photographs, 1988-1992; Polaroid 20x24 camera works, 1991-1998; color street portraits, 2000-2002; and selections from the series titled "Class Pictures" from 2002-2006, "Character Project" from 2008, and "Strangers/Community" from 2010-present.

Bey's small camera pictures focus on the spontaneous choreography of human interactions within specific locations and the fleeting social tensions embedded in them. His street portraits explore moments of consensual collaboration between the artist and the subjects, and speak to the possibility of formal portraits made in public spaces. Bey's first Polaroid works mark the introduction of young people as the central subject, which is further developed in his "Class Pictures" and "Character Project" series.

Bey's most recent project, "Strangers/Community," returns to a concerns with neighborhood and community. Bey pairs people who live in the same neighborhood but who have never previously met — and whose lives are unlikely to bring them into contact.

"Dawoud Bey: Picturing People" is organized by The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, and made possible through support from the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation and the Harper Court Arts Council.

Events related to the exhibition include:

• Gallery Walk: Picturing People, 5:30 p.m. June 26 at the Beach Museum. Join Bembnister; Rebecca Bahlmann, assistant professor of photograph at Kansas State University; and Jen Friess, doctoral candidate in the history of photograph at the University of Kansas, for an informal exploration of the exhibition. The event is free and open to the public.

• Portfolio Workshops, 10:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 5-6 at the Beach Museum. The Aug. 5 workshop will be for children ages 6-10, while the Aug. 6 workshop will be for ages 10-16. The children will visit the "Dawoud Bey: Picturing People" exhibitionand create photographic and drawn self-portraits. The cost is $5 per child. Reservations are required by calling 785-532-7718 or emailing klwalk@k-state.edu.

• In Conversation: Dawoud Bey and Hamza Walker, 7 p.m. Sept. 4 in the K-State Student Union's Little Theatre. Bey and Hamza Walker, associate curator and director of education at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, will discuss the power of art, its potential as a means of social engagement, and unique aspects of the aesthetic research carried out by artists. The event is free and open to the public.

The Beach Museum of Art is on the southeast corner of the Kansas State University campus at 701 Beach Lane. Admission is free and the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and holidays. Free parking is available adjacent to the building. For more information, call 785-532-7718 or visit http://beach.k-state.edu.


Theresa Bembnister


Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art 


Download the following photo.

Dawoud Bey and Lindsay Atnip

Dawoud Bey's "Rudy Nimocks and Lindsay Atnip, Hyde Park, Chicago" is a pigment print, shown courtesy of the artist, from 2012. It is one of the works included in the "Dawoud Bey: Picturing People" exhibition opening June 17 at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University.

At a glance

"Dawoud Bey: Picturing People," an exhibition of portraiture by the noted photographer and artist, opens June 17 and runs through Oct. 5 at Kansas State University's Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.