Reckonings and Reconstructions
Southern Photography from the Do Good Fund
Dave Anderson » Rachel Boillot » Trent Bozeman » Sheila Pree Bright » William Christenberry » Carolyn Drake » Matt Eich » Debbie Fleming Caffery » Peyton Fulford » Emmet Gowin » Alex Harris » Lauren Henkin » Zig Jackson » Molly Lamb » Baldwin Lee » Builder Levy » Andrea Morales » Don Norris » Gordon Parks » Kristine Potter » Tamara Reynolds » Georgia Rhodes » Jeff Rich » RaMell Ross » Whitten Sabbatini » Jerry Siegel » Mark Steinmetz » Michael Stipe » Jeff Whetstone » Susan Worsham » & others
Exhibition: – 8 Jan 2023
Fri 21 Oct 18:30
Georgia Museum of Art
90 Carlton Street
GA 30602 Athens
Tue-Sat 10-17, Thu 10-21, Sun 13-17
125 photographs by 73 artists
This exhibition is the first large-scale survey of the Do Good Fund’s remarkable and sweeping collection of photography made in the South from the 1950s to the present. Since its founding in 2012, the Do Good Fund has built a museum-quality collection of photography that charts a visual narrative of the ever-changing American South. The collection includes images by more than 25 Guggenheim Fellows, five Magnum Photographers and two Henri Cartier-Bresson Award winners as well as images by lesser-known or emerging photographers from the region. In part a survey of the art and artists within Do Good’s holdings, the exhibition is also and more crucially a scholarly investigation of southern photography since World War II.
Highlighting a wide-ranging group of photographers — diverse in gender, race, ethnicity and region — the exhibition features 125 photographs by 73 artists. It unfolds within six sections that examine each of the project’s core themes: land, labor, law and protest, food, ritual and kinship. These themes are inherently expansive and internally paradoxical. Within this thematic structure, the project raises key questions that identify and problematize fixed ideas of an “American South” and “southern photography.” How do photographs navigate the interface between nature and culture in the South, as well as the ravages of extraction, settlement and sprawl? How do photographers string together histories of quotidian labor, creativity and caretaking and the region’s painful histories of enslaved and incarcerated labor? How have photographs captured the performance of southern community and identity through civic and religious rituals? How has the medium signaled exclusion and estrangement, yet also belonging and kinship in the American South?
These six themes link disparate works in the fund’s collection and capture southern history, culture and identity in all their complexity and contradictions. Through the installation, where clusters of objects variously construct and deconstruct each thematic category, the exhibition reckons with southern-ness as a coherent category. In so doing, it resists notions of the South as a retrograde region and instead presents the enigmatic, “ever-changing” qualities of the place and its people: a region where despair and hope, terror and beauty, pain and joy, and indignity and dignity commingle; a place seeking reconciliation and restoration, captured by photographers with an ethical vision for a “Better South.”
“Reckonings and Reconstructions” is accompanied by the first comprehensive catalogue of the Do Good Fund’s photographic holdings, co-published with the University of Georgia Press. The project also considers the role of Athens, Georgia — with its vibrant community of photographers, renowned photography program at the University of Georgia and celebrated alternative art and music scene — within the history of southern photography.
This exhibition will travel to the Chrysler Museum of Art August 11, 2023 – January 7, 2024; the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, February 8 – May 18, 2024 and the Figge Art Museum June 15 – September 8, 2024.