Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems, both born in 1953, came of age during a period of dramatic change in the American social landscape. Since meeting at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1977, the two artists have been intellectual colleagues and companions. Over the following five decades, Bey and Weems have explored and addressed similar themes: race, class, representation, and systems of power, creating work that is grounded in specific African American events and realities while simultaneously speaking to universal human conditions. This exhibition, for the first time, brings their work together to shed light on their unique trajectories and modes of presentation, and their shared consciousness and principles.
From the outset of their careers, both Bey and Weems have operated from a deep social commitment to participate in, describe, and define culture. In seeking to express themselves fully, both artists have expanded possibilities within photography and video to address their chosen subjects. Each engaged in the material and conceptual developments in the art world that were gaining prominence beginning in the 1970s, just as their careers were developing. As Bey and Weems have continued to push their own work forward, their art and approach have inspired notable younger artists such as LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Mickalene Thomas, and Hank Willis Thomas.
Both Bey and Weems create work in focused series that gives them opportunity to fully explore their complex and layered ideas. Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue is arranged in five sections that present the two artists’ work in thematic pairings, emphasizing both their mutual concerns and distinct artistic approaches.