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Indepth Arts News:

"Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks,"
2002-06-07 until 2002-09-01
Hudson River Museum
Yonkers, NY, USA

YONKERS, NY April 17, 2002 - The work of renowned American artist, and master of many media, Gordon Parks, will be exhibited at the Hudson River Museum from June 7 to September 1. Featuring over 200 photographs, ranging from 1940 through 1997, as well as his books, music, and films, this exhibition is co-curated by Philip Brookman, curator of photography and media arts at Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Deborah Willis, who teaches photography at New York University. The exhibition debuted at the Corcoran Gallery and continues its national tour at the Hudson River Museum.

Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks and related programs are made possible by AOL Time Warner and Ford Motor Company. Additional support is provided by the Glen Eagles Foundation, Cone-Laumont Editions, Ltd., Laumont Labs, and Time Life Photo Laboratories. The Westchester presentation of Half Past Autumn has been made possible, in part, by Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc. The exclusive print-media sponsor for this exhibition is The Journal News.

Although the 89-year-old Parks is best known as a photojournalist, Half Past Autumn brings together for the first time his work in all media.The exhibition begins with several of his most recent images and then turns to the past with early photographs representing his Kansas childhood.

“We are privileged to exhibit the works of such an influential American figure as Parks,” said Michael Botwinick, Director of the Hudson River Museum. “The diversity of his art shows his vision and his unerring sense of the pulse and energy of the time and place in which he worked.”

Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912, Gordon Parks, the youngest of 15 children, overcame poverty and racism to rise to the top of his profession. He has chronicled the Kansas prairies of his childhood, city streets throughout the Americas and Europe, and the intricate details of the natural world.

Parks has made his own experiences – his life and feelings about those around him – central to his work. “I was born to a black childhood of confusion and poverty,” Parks says. “The memory of that beginning influences my work today.” Following his mother’s death when he was 16, Parks left Kansas and, for the next 10 years, worked as a piano player, busboy, basketball player and Civilian Conservation Corpsman. During the Depression, Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographs of Dust Bowl refugees gripped Parks and he chose the camera as his creative medium and tool to fight hopelessness.

Winning an FSA fellowship, Parks, searching for the sources of bigotry, photographed Ella Watson, an FSA charwoman, and made her the subject of his first and best-known picture, American Gothic (1942). Posed like the farmer in Grant Wood’s 1930 composition of the same name, Ella stands before an American flag holding the symbols of her labor – a mop and broom – in place of the farmer’s pitchfork.

At LIFE where Parks worked over 20 years, he photographed Harlem gangs, fashion, segregation in the South, the Black Muslims and, always, poverty in America. He perfected his trademark style at LIFE, personalizing a story by documenting the impact of complex situations on real people.

Richard Parsons, Co-Chief Operating Officer of AOL Time Warner, said: “We are proud of our history with Gordon Parks over the last half century, beginning with his work as a LIFE photographer. Through his work in film, print, photography and music, Gordon Parks has brought us a better understanding of our country, our world and ourselves. We are delighted to help support this important exhibition of his work.”

“Ford Motor Company is proud to be a part of this salute to Gordon Parks,” said William Clay Ford, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company. “His photographs depict the people, places, and events that make history, transforming ordinary images into extraordinary art.”

Half Past Autumn places Parks’s photography within the context of all his work, and reveals its importance to the social and cultural history of the twentieth century. The Hudson River Museum will complement the exhibition with community-based education programs, including films, slide shows, concerts and workshops.

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