Tag Archives: Gordon Parks


Navigating a white male world wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I knew more than them. — Toni Morrison

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM—the new documentary by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, now in theaters—is a joyous, exhilarating look at the life and work of a great American author, teacher, and editor who has always been happy to be labeled a “black writer,” a “woman writer.”

“I didn’t want to speak for black people. I wanted to speak to, and among…”

And it is shocking, in Greenfield-Sanders documentary, to come across such benighted critical voices as, say, Sara Blackburn’s in 1973, in America’s supposedly liberal newspaper of record:

“Toni Morrison is far too talented to remain only a marvelous recorder of the black side of provincial American life.”*

Removing the white male gaze as the dominant voice is a key element of Morrison’s practice, and she doesn’t hesitate calling out black writers who seemed to write to white audiences. Citing Ralph Ellison, she asks, “The Invisible Man? Invisible to whom?”

As a senior editor at Random House throughout the 1970s, Morrison discovered and championed books by Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, and Bettie Wysor (author of The Lesbian Myth). She also persuaded Angela Davis—then in her late twenties—to write her autobiography.

“Eventually I learned that the book she wanted to publish was the book I wanted to write… She helped me access my imagination in ways I continue to be grateful for today.” — Angela Davis

Song of Solomon (1977) was Morrison’s first best seller, and five years later she left her editor’s post to devote her time to writing and teaching. She’s professor emeritus at Princeton University, and often told her students, “I know you’ve been told, ‘write what you know.’ I don’t want you to do that. You don’t know anything.”

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM features interviews with Morrison’s friends and colleagues—Walter Mosley, Farah Griffin, Fran Lebowitz, Paula Giddings, Hilton Als, Sonia Sanchez, editor Robert Gottlieb, and Davis—as well as a rich selection of contemporary artwork by, among others, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, David Hammons, and Rashid Johnson.


Tuesday, October 22, at 7:30 pm.

The Landmark

10850 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Wednesday, September 18, at 7:30 pm.

Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum

10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Music Hall

9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

Downtown Independent

251 South Main Street, Los Angeles.

Arclight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.

*Sara Blackburn, review of Sula, by Toni Morrison, New York Times, December 30, 1973.

From top: Toni Morrison, photograph from Toni Morrrison—The Pieces I Am; Morrison, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Morrison with her sons Ford Morrison (left) and Slade Morrison in 1978, photograph by Jack Mitchell, Getty Images; poster courtesy Magnolia Pictures; Morrison and Greenfield-Sanders, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Images courtesy and © the author, the photographers, and Magnolia Pictures.


The exhibition GORDON PARKS—THE NEW TIDE, EARLY WORK 1940–1950G looks at his mid-century work from the time when “images began to proliferate in picture magazines and on television,” providing an “engaging study of the competing purposes and meanings” of his commissions—journalistic, governmental, industrial, and fashion.*


Through June 9.

Cleveland Museum of Art

11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland.

Gordon Parks, gelatin silver prints, from top: Self-Portrait, 1941; Washington, D.C. Government charwoman, [Ella Watson],1942; Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, 1950; Paris Fashions, 1949; Self-Portrait. Images courtesy and © the Gordon Parks Foundation.


“My beautiful city is set on rock between two flowing paths of water that run to the sea. My city is tall and jagged—with gold-slated towers… My city chokes on its breath, and sparkles with its false lights—and sleeps restlessly at night. My city is a lone man walking at night down an empty street watching his shadow grow longer as he passes the last lamp post, seeing no comfort in the blank, dark windows, and hearing his footsteps echo against the building and fade away.” — Jerome Robbins

Admired, disparaged, beloved, feared, Jerome Robbins (1918–1998) was one of the great choreographers of the twentieth century. Arthur Laurents told Robbins he was “a shit” for naming names as a “friendly witness” for HUAC. (Robbins feared being exposed as bisexual.) Yet Laurents continued to collaborate with him, most notably on West Side Story. (Stephen Sondheim, the show’s lyricist, said that Robbins was one of the only geniuses he’d ever worked with.)

Through his work with the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, and on Broadway—On the Town, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof, to name just three shows among dozens—Robbins was indelibly associated with his home base and muse: Manhattan.

A new exhibition curated by Julia Foulkes marks Robbins’ centenary and his lifelong celebration of the city, and includes dance films and videos, diaries, paintings, story scenarios, press clippings, and extensive photographic documentation.


Through March 30.

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

40 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York City.

From top: Sharks and Jets dance in West Side Story, on tour in Europe in the early 2000s; the original Fancy Free cast—Muriel Bentley, Janet Reed, Harold Lang, John Kriza, and Jerome Robbins—in Times Square in 1958, with photographer Gordon Parks leaning over his tripod, courtesy the Jerome Robbins Dance Division/The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; Mikhail Baryshnikov in the New York City Ballet production of The Four Seasons (1979), choreographed by Robbins; Antoinette Sibley rehearses Afternoon of a Faun with the choreographer, photograph by Michael Childers, courtesy Dance Magazine; Damian Woetzel and Tiler Peck dance Robbins at Kennedy Center, 2017; Carmen de Lavallade, Robbins, and Yves Saint Laurent—photograph by Whiteside—and Robbins in 1944, both courtesy Dance Magazine.


This is the closing weekend for TRUTH & BEAUTY—CHARLES WHITE AND HIS CIRCLE, an exhibition of works by the great draftsman and his friends and colleagues, reflecting White’s working life in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles—the host cities of his concurrent retrospective.

Among White’s circle and included in the show are Romare Bearden, Betye SaarRoy DeCarava, Philip Evergood, Robert Gwathmey, David Hammons, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Norman Lewis, Ben ShahnJohn Biggers, Eldzier Cortor, Kerry James Marshall, and Hale Woodruff.


Through Saturday, November 10.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 100 Eleventh Avenue (at 19th Street), New York City.



Through January 13.

Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York City.

The retrospective will be on view in Los Angeles in early 2019, along with two coincident exhibitions: LIFE MODEL—CHARLES WHITE AND HIS STUDENTS at LACMA’s satellite gallery at Charles White Elementary School—formerly Otis Art Institute, where the artist taught for many years—and a show at CAAM.


February 17 through June 9.

LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.

From top:

Charles WhiteJ’Accuse! No.5, 1966, Wolff crayon and charcoal on paper.

Betye SaarThe Mystic Window #1, 1965, assemblage with etchings, graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper in antique window frame.

Romare BeardenFlights and Fantasy, 1970, mixed media collage of various papers and synthetic polymer paint on Masonite.

Charles WhiteUntitled, 1945, tempera and graphite on illustration board.

Charles WhiteJuba #2, 1965, Wolff crayon and oil wash on illustration board.

Image credit: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.



“As a photographer, film director, composer, and writer, Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was a multi-disciplinary artist whose art and advocacy for social justice still resonates in contemporary culture.

“In collaboration with the Gordon Parks Foundation, this second half of I AM YOU at Jack Shainman Gallery will focus on some of Parks’ most celebrated and iconic imagery; demonstrating his abilities as a photographer and journalist who moved just as seamlessly documenting everyday life and injustice facing African-American families across the country, framing his subjects with compassion amidst unvarnished reality.”*


GORDON PARKSI AM YOU, through March 24.

JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, 524 West 24th Street, New York City.



Gordon ParksDepartment Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. Courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation and Jack Shainman Gallery.

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