The Polygon Gallery presents As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, a celebration of Black community, identity, and power
The international touring exhibition organized by Aperture features more than 100 photographs from the Wedge Collection, dedicated to work by Black artists
JAN. 19, 2023 (VANCOUVER, CANADA) — The Polygon Gallery will present the Vancouver premiere of As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic from Feb. 24–May 14, 2023. The international touring exhibition, curated by The Polygon Gallery’s Elliott Ramsey, is dedicated entirely to the Wedge Collection as featured in the recently published book by Aperture of more than 100 photographs from African diasporic culture from both sides of the Atlantic.
“The Wedge Collection brings together rare images, iconic photographs, and new works that reach across continents and over decades,” says Ramsey. “From the 1930s’ Harlem Renaissance, through post-colonial Bamako, to contemporary Toronto, As We Rise celebrates the polyphony of Black life — and the nuanced approaches of Black photographers in representing these scenes of love, leisure, and resistance.”
The Wedge Collection was established by Dr. Kenneth Montague in 1997 and is Canada’s largest privately owned collection committed to championing Black artists. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from a phrase that Montague’s father would often invoke: “Lifting as we rise.” By this, he emphasized the importance of parlaying one’s personal success into communal good. He believed in investing back in the community to which he and his family belonged. As an ethic, “lifting as we rise” suggests an expanded sense of family, one that reaches beyond close relatives. As an exhibition, As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic embraces this expansive sensibility, centring the familial alongside the familiar.
Familiarity resides not just in the exhibition collectively, but in the photographs themselves. Black subjects are depicted by Black photographers, presented as they wish to be seen. Largely, these subjects are aware of the camera, and yet never seem rigid or unnatural. The gaze is mutual and consensual. But the imagery produced is far from uniform. It is as varied, surprising, and heterogeneous as the Black Atlantic itself. Like a family album, it is idiosyncratic. The concepts of community, identity, and power intersect and merge, discernable in many of the photographs not as features to be singled out but rather as a recognizable essence; a recognition of the complex strength, beauty, vulnerability, and irreducibility of Black life.
Select highlights from the exhibition include:
● ’70s Lifestyle (1975–78) by Samuel Fosso, a legendary photographer known for self-portraiture in various personas, is seen here as a young teenager, styling himself in fashions of the day
● Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (1950) by Gordon Parks, an icon of civil rights-era photography
● Rude Boy, Brooklyn, New York (1982) by Jamel Shabazz, who was photographing in Brooklyn as hip hop was emerging a force in the global music industry
● Nuit de Noël (1963) by Malick Sidibé, one of the most important photographers of post-colonial Africa who was recognized with the Hasselblad Award the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement
● My Name Is My Name I (2016) by Texas Isaiah, a rising star in contemporary photography, and the first trans photographer to shoot an edition cover for Vogue Magazine in 2020
● First Self-Portrait (1975) by Carrie Mae Weems, among the most significant photographers of our time and renowned for her self-portraiture
● After Sir Joshua Reynolds’ “Portrait of Doctor Samuel Johnson” (2009) by Kehinde Wiley, a Nigerian-American artist known for referencing art historical portraiture in his photographs and paintings, and Barack Obama’s official portrait in Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery
See below for the full list of artists in As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic.
The exhibition first opened at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto in fall 2022 and will travel to the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts in June 2023.
The texts in this exhibition are adapted from the related book As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic (Aperture, 2021).
For more information, visit thepolygon.ca/exhibition/as-we-rise.
As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic is part of Capture Photography Festival, running from April 1–30, 2023.
Banner image: James Barnor, Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, Kilburn, London, 1966. From As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic (Aperture, 2021).
As We Rise includes work by
Raphael Albert, Henry Clay Anderson, Tayo Yannick Anton, Liz Johnson Artur, James Barnor, Dawoud Bey, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Deanna Bowen, Jody Brand, Kwame Brathwaite, Sandra Brewster, Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Vanley Burke, Mohamed Camara, Kennedi Carter, Jorian Charlton, June Clark, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Renee Cox, Erika DeFreitas, Jabulani Dhlamini, Stan Douglas, Louis Draper, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Samuel Fosso, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Courtney D.Garvin, Jérôme Havre, Barkley L. Hendricks, Leslie Hewitt, Ayana V. Jackson, Rashid Johnson, Aaron Jones, Anique Jordan, Seydou Keïta, Lebohang Kganye, Luther Konadu, Deana Lawson, Zun Lee, Oumar Ly, João Mendes, Jalani Morgan, Dennis Morris, Aïda Muluneh, Eustáquio Neves, Jamal Nxedlana, Lakin Ogunbanwo, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Bidemi Oloyede, Horace Ové, Gordon Parks, Dawit L. Petros, Charlie Phillips, Afonso Pimenta, Ruddy Roye, Athi-Patra Ruga, Abdourahmane Sakaly, Jamel Shabazz, Abdo Shanan, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Ming Smith, Paul Anthony Smith, Sanlé Sory, Eve Tagny, Texas Isaiah, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, James Van Der Zee, Nontsikelelo Veleko, Ruby Washington, Ricky Weaver, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kehinde Wiley.
Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other — in print, in person, and online. Created in 1952 by photographers and writers as “common ground for the advancement of photography,” Aperture today is a multiplatform publisher and center for the photo community. From its base in New York, Aperture produces, publishes, and presents a variety of photography projects and programs — locally, across the United States, and around the world. For more information, visit aperture.org.
About The Polygon Gallery
The Polygon is one of Canada’s most acclaimed photography and media art galleries. The Gallery moved into its Governor General’s Medal-winning building in 2017 after operating as Presentation House Gallery for 40 years. The organization has presented more than 300 exhibitions and earned a reputation as one of the country’s most adventurous public art institutions. Admission is by donation, courtesy of BMO Financial Group.
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