Exhibition of Photographs by Gordon Parks Premieres at Stanford Before Traveling to Other U.S. Museums

Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks

March 21 July 1, 2007

Stanford, California — As part of an ongoing series of exhibitions based on the photographic collection of the Los Angeles-based Capital Group, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University announces a retrospective of the works of the late Gordon Parks, opening on March 21, 2007. “Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks” features 73 works chosen specifically by Parks for The Capital Group as examples of his most potent imagery. The exhibition, which fills two galleries at the Cantor Arts Center, remains on view through July 1.

Born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks, who died in 2006 at age 93, documented crime and poverty, as well as its opposite - glamour. An African American photographer who began working professionally in the 1940s, Parks tackled the harsh truth and dignity of the black urban and rural poor in the United States. He photographed aspects of the Civil Rights movements and individuals associated with the Black Panthers and Black Muslims. Parks established himself as a foremost fashion photographer, providing spreads for respected magazines such as Vogue. For 25 years, from 1945 to 1970, he served as staff photographer for Life, the magazine of current events that mirrored mid-century American society. In addition to his documentary and fashion photography, Parks was a filmmaker, author, musician, and publisher, a renaissance man whose career embodied the American ideal of equality and whose art was bound up with his personal life.

“ 'Bare Witness' includes many of Parks's iconic images, such as those made for the Farm Security Administration, the Office of War Information, and the Standard Oil (New Jersey) photography project,” said Hilarie Faberman, Robert M. and Ruth L. Halperin Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Cantor Arts Center. “Whether photographing celebrities or common folk, Harlem gang leaders or intellectuals, children or the elderly, individuals who were well or barely dressed, Parks brought his straightforward, sympathetic eye and mind to bear witness to late-20th century civilization. As writers on Parks have noted, his photographs balance the dichotomies of black and white, rich and poor, and document and artifice, revealing his strengths and struggles as an artist and man.”

The exhibition includes an illustrated catalogue with an essay by photography scholar Maren Stange who writes frequently on modern American culture. A member of the faculty at Cooper Union, Stange's recent publications include Bronzeville: Black Chicago in Pictures (2003) and Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography in America 1890-1950 (1989). Following its showing at the Cantor Arts Center, the exhibition will travel nationally to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia (January 24 - March 30, 2008), the St. Louis Art Museum (May 30 - August 24, 2008), Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington (mid-September 2008 - January 4, 2009), and the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University (April 24 - June 28, 2009).

"Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks" was organized by the Cantor Arts Center. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are made possible by generous support from The Capital Group Foundation, the Cantor Arts Center's Hohbach Family Fund, and Cantor Arts Center's Members.