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April 05, 2024 (April 19, 2024)

Gordon Parks’s Portraits of African American Life Explored in National Gallery of Art Exhibition

Gordon Parks, "Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (Bert Collins and Pauline Terry)"

Gordon Parks
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (Bert Collins and Pauline Terry), 1950, printed later
gelatin silver print
image: 25.4 x 31.4 cm (10 x 12 3/8 in.)
sheet: 28.3 x 35.4 cm (11 1/8 x 13 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Corcoran Collection (The Gordon Parks Collection)

Washington, DC—Celebrated for his humanistic and insightful depictions of American life and experience, Gordon Parks (1912–2006) is one of the most distinguished photographers of the 20th century. In photo-essays published in Life, Ebony, Vogue, and Glamour magazines, his portraits of everyday people and well-known individuals address the central issues of his time: race, poverty, civil rights, and African American and American culture after World War II. Gordon Parks: Camera Portraits from the Corcoran Collection presents approximately 25 photographs he made from 1941 into the 1970s. They are primarily drawn from the National Gallery’s Corcoran Collection and are presented in collaboration with the Gordon Parks Foundation. The exhibition is on view from July 14, 2024, through January 12, 2025, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.

Gordon Parks: Camera Portraits demonstrates how much of the power of Parks’s art resides in his ability to create compelling and revealing portraits,” said Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs at the National Gallery of Art. “Whether he was photographing Ella Watson, a charwoman who toiled in a government office building, or the most celebrated people of the time, such as Duke Ellington, his portraits succinctly describe both the character of the person he depicted and the ways in which they elucidate larger social and cultural issues.”

“The Corcoran Collection of Gordon Parks’s work held a special significance for him during his lifetime,” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director, The Gordon Parks Foundation. “We are excited that these works can be highlighted alongside more recent acquisitions, showing the breadth and reach of Parks's work with his subjects.”  

About the Exhibition

Gordon Parks: Camera Portraits from the Corcoran Collection
looks at how this celebrated American photographer forged a new mode of portraiture after World War II. By blending a documentary photographer’s desire to depict his subjects where they lived and worked with a studio and fashion photographer’s attention to dress, character, and expression, Parks was able, as he wrote in 1948, to show the "significance" of individuals "in relation to the era [they] represent.” He applied this approach to such American icons as boxer Muhammad Ali and conductor Leonard Bernstein, as well as to a Harlem gang leader and a Detroit couple, revealing the humanity and dignity of each person. Highlights include pictures of some of the most recognized figures of the last century, including contralto Marian Anderson, musician Duke Ellington, poet Langston Hughes, activist Malcolm X, and author Richard Wright, in addition to artists Alexander Calder and Alberto Giacometti.

Exhibition Organization and Support

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The exhibition is made possible through the leadership support of the Trellis Fund.

Exhibition Curator

This exhibition is curated by Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

Contact Information

General Information
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]

Chief of Communications
Anabeth Guthrie
phone: (202) 842-6804
e-mail: [email protected]

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