The exhibition The Museum Series comprises selections from visual artist and 2013 MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems ongoing series of self-portraits, where she stands, with her back turned to the camera, in proximity to some of the world’s leading museums and cultural institutions. The resulting images act as ruminations on the collecting and exhibiting practices of these sites.
Since 1978, Weems has examined the historical complexities of identity, class and social relations through photography and other media, such as video, installation, sound and text. Working in series, her generally black-and-white photographs articulate and reify the African-American experience in particular for broad contemplation. Varying from intimate to sweeping in scale, Weems’s diverse oeuvre reflects the artist’s commitment to revealing inequalities that potentially touch upon all segments of humanity.
“The Museum Series” (2006–present) shows Weems, shrouded in black, traveling to domestic locations, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Project Row Houses in Houston, as well as outside of the United States to the Tate Modern, London; the Pergamon Museum in Berlin; and the Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna in Rome. The images are complicated by her position as an artist in relationship to these institutions as well as by the constellation of race and gender inequality, agency and access that surround them. Implicated in each photograph by virtue of size and physical position, the viewer is asked to question the manner by which cultural institutions affirm or reject certain histories through their collecting and display decisions.
Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series is organized by Lauren Haynes, assistant curator and runs concurrently with Weems’s mid-career retrospective, on view at the Guggenheim Museum from January 24 – May 14, 2014.
Carrie Mae Weems was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1953. She earned a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia (1981), and an MFA in photography from the University of California, San Diego (1984), continuing her studies in the Graduate Program in Folklore at the University of California, Berkeley (1984-1987). She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including Rome Prize Fellowship (2006); Skowhegan Medal for Photography (2007). In 2012, Weems received a Medal of Arts from the U.S. Department of State and in 2013 she was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Weems was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow. The artist lives and works in Syracuse, New York.