Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems at Tampa Museum of Art

A forty-year retrospective by two of today’s most influential photo-based artists, Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems, will be on view at the Tampa Museum of Art beginning July 21 until October 23, 2022, for the first stop in a nation-wide tour. Organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue is the first exhibition to bring their work together exclusively. Featuring 140 works, the exhibition gives a unique glimpse into their distinct artistic approaches and trajectories, as well as the artists’ shared focus on representing communities and histories that have largely been unseen.

“Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems have always sought to create works of art that expand the way we think about the world,” Michael Tomor, the Penny and Jeff Vinik Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art. Speaking about the artists, Chief Curator of GRAM, Ron Platt said. “Both artists have been united in their commitment to amplifying authentic Black experiences and images, recognizing those important perspectives and insights were overlooked and sorely lacking within the field of photography.”

Both born in 1953, Bey and Weems found motivation for their art in the changing American social landscape of their youth. Since meeting in a photography class taught by Bey at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1976, the two artists have been intellectual colleagues and close friends, each exploring similar themes of race, class, representation, and systems of power throughout their careers.

“Carrie Mae Weems and I have been carrying on a personal conversation for more than forty years,” Dawoud Bey said of his relationship with Weems. “We both see ourselves in conversation with history, both broadly and within the sphere of African American culture. We’ve nurtured each other’s burning desire to contribute meaningfully to the long history of Black expressive excellence. Hopefully, this exhibition [curated by] the Grand Rapids Art Museum reveals that the conversation that Carrie and I have had has both buoyed each other’s work and produced something of lasting meaning and value.”

Of the exhibition, Carrie Mae Weems said, “I’ve never been given a major exhibition in concert with another artist that I was deeply involved with, so for me, it’s a really unique exhibition. It gives me the great opportunity of learning about an extraordinary artist who has been by my side for the last 45 years. What Dawoud has managed to accomplish is not easy for any artist. And he’s done it with such dignity, such grace, and with such generosity of spirit.”

“In Dialogue” at Tampa Museum of Art

Dawoud Bey, Couple in Prospect Park, 1990 (printed 2018). Gelatin silver print, 21 7/8 x 17 1/2 inches. Grand Rapids Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 2018.22. © Dawoud Bey. Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.
Dawoud Bey, Couple in Prospect Park, 1990 (printed 2018). Gelatin silver print, 21 7/8 x 17 1/2 inches. Grand Rapids Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 2018.22. © Dawoud Bey. Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Bey and Weems began their exploration of photography as the field was expanding and transforming from a tradition of small, black-and-white film-based images. In Dialogue highlights the early pictures they made in the photodocumentary style, followed by their ambitious, groundbreaking explorations of the medium as it grew technologically and artistically.

This exhibition pairs the two artists’ work in five sections that emphasize both their distinct artistic approaches and their shared interests and concerns: Early Work, Broadening the Scope, Resurrecting Black Histories, Memorial and Requiem, and Revelations in the Landscape. Also featured in the exhibition are videos by Bey and Weems that show their approaches to the moving photographic image as an extension of their still photographic series.

Beginning with Early Work, viewers will travel through the 35mm photography Bey and Weems captured at the outset of their careers, embracing both spontaneous scenes of city life, and more quiet, domestic interactions. In Broadening the Scope, Bey and Weems’ begin staging their photographs — Bey capturing posed street portraits of young subjects in urban environments and Weems staging her groundbreaking, narrative-based Kitchen Table Series.

In Resurrecting Black Histories, we see the artists’ deepened interest in documenting places and moments heavy with historical importance. Bey captures safe houses and meeting sites in near darkness along the Underground Railroad of Ohio, while Weems’ somber Sea Island Series explores the African legends and folklore that was retained within the Gullah culture of the Southern United States. In Memorial and Requiem, both artists become full-fledged in their commitment to cultural documentation, paying homage to tragic historic events. In the final section, Revelations in the Landscape, the artists return to a more distanced observation, contemplating the effects of time through location. Bey revisits Harlem, now photographing the effects of gentrification in color, while Weems appears in her own shots against the ancient structures of Rome, clad all in black as she guides the viewer through age-old institutional powers abroad.

About Dawoud Bey

Photographer Dawoud Bey’s first exhibition was presented at the Studio Museum in Harlem, in 1979. Since then, his work has been presented internationally to critical and popular acclaim. Recent large-scale exhibitions of his photographs have been presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate Modern, London.

About Carrie Mae Weems

Over her career, Carrie Mae Weems has created a complex body of artwork through which she explores power, class, black identity, womanhood, the historical past – and its resonance in the present moment. In addition to photography, Weems creates video, performance, and works of public art, and she organizes thematic gatherings which bring together creative thinkers across a broad array of disciplines.

Her work has been exhibited across the world, at venues such as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain, and the American Academy in Rome, Italy.

About the Tampa Museum of Art

Founded in 1920, the Tampa Museum of Art inspires visitors with engaging exhibitions and innovative educational programs that emphasize ancient, modern, and contemporary art. The Museum houses one of the largest Greek and Roman antiquities collections in the southeastern United States. As one of the region’s most prominent museums devoted to the art of our time, the Museum’s permanent collection also embraces sculpture, photography, painting, new media, and more.

The Museum’s new Vinik Family Education Center offers expanded year-round studio art classes, lectures, and tours that allow children, teens, and adults to discover new perspectives and learn different art-making techniques. Likewise, through unique community partnerships, the Museum offers outreach programs that provide art-therapy-informed interventions and meaningful modes of self-expression to vulnerable segments of the population.

Located in the heart of downtown Tampa, the Tampa Museum of Art leads as both a cultural institution and a community museum dedicated to celebrating its home city’s diversity. In 2021, the Museum embarked on an ambitious renovation to increase exhibition space and education facilities to accommodate growing community partnerships and allow more hands-on, up-close experiences for students and adults. The Museum will remain open to the public throughout the Centennial Renovation, with an expected completion date in the second half of 2022.

General Hours and Information

For tickets and information, visit TampaMuseum.org or call (813) 274-8130. Located at 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza. Tampa, FL 33602, the Tampa Museum of Art is open seven days a week, Monday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm, and Thursdays from 10 am – 8 pm.  

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