The sculptures, installations and photographs included in Jane Alexander's current show at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, "Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope)," inhabit their own world [through Nov. 3]. Encompassing furnishings, ominously spiked tools, wires, fences and vast landscapes, the theatrical staging often leads visitors to her shows feeling they have been transported to a magical place. At the far right of her photograph Corporal (2008) stands a bare chested, broad shouldered figure with its head turned toward the horizon. While he appears to be male, his long snout and large, rounded ears suggest otherwise. We are looking at a modern world of telephone polls and electrical towers, but also a place regulated by otherworldly expectations.
With concurrent solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, this summer offers a comprehensive look at 30 years of Dawoud Bey's photographic work in one city. "Harlem, U.S.A.," on view in Gallery 189 at the Art Institute, contains 25 black-and-white photographs completed while Bey was an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in the late 1970s. The Renaissance Society's survey exhibition includes over 30 years of work, culminating in his most recent series, "Strangers/Community," portraits of residents of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.
Bey is renowned for the warmth and intensity of his subjects, predominantly teenagers from the New York and Chicago areas. Working in black and white and color, film and digital photography, Bey explores the history and future of portraiture. The prints in "Harlem, U.S.A.," for example, combine the composition and clarity of a skilled professional with the thoughtful consideration of a young artist. Over the years, Bey has been called upon to capture the likes of artists, dignitaries and, recently, Barack Obama.
2012, aluminum, wood, sublimation print on polyester and concrete, 71 3/4 by 122 1/2 by 135 inches overall. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New Yor