The exhibition provides an in-depth look at two understudied collaborations, executed in 1948 and 1952, that aimed to bring to national consciousness the black experience in postwar America, with Harlem as its nerve center. Gordon Parks (1912-2006), a renowned photographer and filmmaker best known for his photo-essays for Life magazine, and Ralph Ellison (1913-1994), author of one of the most acclaimed novels of the 20th century, Invisible Man (1952), are both major figures in American Art and literature. The two friends, united by a shared vision of racial injustices and a belief in the communicative power of photography, sought to counter stereotypical representations of African American life that filled mainstream publications in their day.
Parks and Ellison first joined forces on the 1948 illustrated essay "Harlem Is Nowhere" for '48: The Magazine of the Year, which focused on Harlem's Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic as a means of highlighting the social and economic effects of racism and segregation. In 1952, shortly after the publication of Ellison's Invisible Man, they worked on a story for Life, "A Man Becomes Invisible," to introduce Ellison's novel. Through these projects, Parks and Ellison offered an alternative, meaningful representation of African American life in the hopes of reshaping attitudes about the root causes of racial inequality.
Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison In Harlem features over 50 never-before-seen objects, including photographs, contact sheets, and manuscripts.
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