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Indepth Arts News:

"Gordon Parks: Photojournalism"
2001-12-22 until 2002-02-27
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, OH, USA

Photographs by renowned photojournalist Gordon Parks will be on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) in the exhibition Gordon Parks: Photojournalism. Seventeen vintage black-and-white prints will be featured, including images of Harlem in the 1940s; Malcolm X and others from the 1960s Civil Rights movement; and prizefighter Muhammad Ali.

These photographs by Gordon Parks offer insights into the African-American experience during the mid-20th century, notes Tom Hinson, CMA’s curator of photography. He describes the human condition, including the mundane activities and the passion, the frustration and hope, of everyday life.

Parks portrays a casual moment of conversation in a crowded Harlem street in Untitled (three people and baby in carriage) (194NULL). Another image, Gang Member with Brick (1948), conveys an eerie sense of spirituality. Natural light illuminates a kneeling young man, who waits purposefully with brick in hand. In Malcolm X (1963), the charismatic leader is seen reading a document, glimpsed between the protective shoulders of two colleagues.

Parks became famous in the late 1960s for his photo essays on the leaders of the Black Revolution, though he began his long and distinguished career in 1942, when he worked at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C. He has done freelance fashion photography for Vogue and Glamour and was on Life magazine’s staff from 1949 to 1969. He was a founder of Essence magazine.

Publications by Parks include the best-selling novel The Learning Tree(1963), three autobiographies, and four volumes of poetry and photographs. Parks has directed several films, including the documentary Flavio (1961), adapted from his famous Life story about the precarious existence of a boy from a Brazilian slum; Shaft (1971), for which he wrote the classic music score; Shaft’s Big Score (1972); and The Odyssey of Solomon Northup (1984), which aired on PBS’s American Playhouse Series.

A composer of classical music, Parks has written sonatas, a symphony, and concertos, plus blues and popular music. His works have been performed in the U.S. and abroad. In 1989, he directed the film of his classic ballet, Martin, for which he wrote the libretto and music to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parks is the recipient of the NAACP’s most prestigious award, The Spingarn Medal, and has received 46 honorary degrees in literature, fine arts, and humane letters from colleges and universities across America. He is the subject of the feature-length, Peabody Award-winning HBO documentary Half Past Autumn: The Life and Work of Gordon Parks (2000), produced by Denzel Washington, and was recently the subject of a major retrospective traveling exhibition, Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks, organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., which included 200 of his photographs, films, novels, poetry, and music.

The 360-page, fully illustrated catalogue for the Corcoran exhibition, Half Past Autumn: A Retrospective (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Company, 1998), will be available for $40 (paperbound). It includes photographs by Gordon Parks and an essay by Philip Brookman, curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

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