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Modern & Contemporary Gallery

People Get Ready: Southern Lens

September 01, 2018 – January 06, 2019
Jeff Whetstone, Still Life with Catfish (detail), 2016. Pigment print, edition 1/5, 39 × 52 inches (99.1 × 132.1 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Museum purchase with funds provided by Jennifer McCracken New and Jason G. New, in honor of Trevor Schoonmaker and Prospect.4; 2018.5.2. Image courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York, New York. © Jeff Whetstone.


This installation complemented People Get Ready: Building a Contemporary Collection, drawing from the museum’s rapidly growing photography collection and featuring several recent acquisitions.

The images in Southern Lens coalesced around William Eggleston’s untitled photograph from his series The Democratic Forest. Eggleston is known for his evocative images of the American South and for photographing “democratically,” meaning any and all subjects are equally important and worthy of capturing.

In a similar fashion, the other artists in this installation explore facets of the South and examine its complex identity through landscape, agriculture and daily life. Genevieve Gaignard challenges notions of race and class in her subversive self-portrait, while everyday moments such as cleaning fish or drinking beer become still lifes in Jeff Whetstone and Henry Horenstein’s photographs. Eggleston’s tomatoes, carefully arranged next to a sink, and Tom Rankin’s burial of an animal, suggest human presence and activity not captured in the frame. Though few images in Southern Lens offer overt connections to their southern location, a familiarity of place and general “southernness” are present. These photographers transform the ordinary to their advantage, hinting at deeper cultural narratives and allowing for imaginative possibilities.

People Get Ready: Southern Lens was organized by Melissa Gwynn, Curatorial Assistant at the Nasher Museum.


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