Iconic Photographs Coming to the Toledo Museum of Art

Posted Dec 30th, 2009 by Kelly Fritz Garrow  Category: Arts & Entertainment,


Coinciding with Black History Month, a compelling exhibition
of iconic and powerfully moving images by the late African-American
photographer Gordon Parks is coming to the Toledo Museum of Art.

Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks brings together 73 works grouped
specifically by Parks himself. The free exhibition opens to the public on
Thursday, Feb. 5, in the Canaday Gallery and continues through April 25,

Perhaps best known as director of the Hollywood hit motion picture Shaft,
Parks was first acknowledged as a master of the photographic arts. He began
his photography career in the 1940s, documenting crime, poverty and civil
rights, as well as the contrasting world of celebrity and glamour.

Parks established himself professionally while working for the Farm Security
Administration and later as the first black photographer for the Office of War
Information, where he documented discrimination in Washington D.C., the first
black fighter pilot squadron and more.

He went on to spend more than 20 years as staff photographer for Life
magazine. One of many assignments he took on at Life was to spend three
months living with a gang, photographing the 16-year-old leader known
as “Red Jackson.” He photographed the Black Panthers, the Black Muslims and
Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. Parks also spent time in Brazil getting up-close-
and-personal with the slums of Rio de Janeiro while photographing the de
Silva family.

From still photography, Parks moved on to become the first African-American
moviemaker to direct a major Hollywood film. His first motion picture, The
Learning Tree, was based on his semi-autobiographical novel about a black
teen in rural Kansas. It was followed by Shaft, an action thriller that helped
to inspire the 1970s film genre known as blaxploitation.

Bare Witness is a veritable retrospective of Parks’ life. The exhibition includes
examples of his early works from the Farm Security Administration, to the
Black Panther’s headquarters, to segregation in Birmingham, Ala., to intimate
photos of the de Silva family.

Visitors will be drawn in by Parks’ amazing technical ability to create delicate
portraiture while at the same time capturing powerful examples of race
relations as in the 1970 photo Eldridge Cleaver and Wife, Kathleen, with
Portrait of Huey Newton, Algiers.

“Parks depicts tender interactions between brothers Flavio and Zacarias in an
image from a powerful yet disturbing series that documents abject poverty in
a Rio de Janeiro favela. The ability of the artist to capture this tender
moment, in what he described as the worst living conditions he had ever
witnessed, speaks both to his photographic skills and his ability to adapt,”
said Tom Loeffler, TMA assistant curator of works on paper.

“Bare Witness (in the exhibition title) refers to Parks’ photographic
investigation of social, political and racial issues throughout the world. He had
the ability to become personally involved while never forgetting his position as
a journalist. He bore witness for us all,” Loeffler noted.

Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks was organized by the Iris & B.
Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. The exhibition
and its accompanying catalogue are made possible by generous support from
The Capital Group Foundation, the Cantor Arts Center’s Hohbach Family fund
and the Cantor Arts Center’s Members.

In addition to hosting the exhibition, the Toledo Museum of Art has planned
an array of free exhibition-related public programs for children and adults.
This programming is made possible with the support of TMA members and the
Ohio Arts Council’s sustainable grant program that encourages economic
growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
Admission to the Museum is free.

For more information, visit or call 419-255-8000.

Exhibition Related Programming

Friday, Feb. 5
FREE Hands-on Activities: Gordon Parks Inspired Beads
7-9 p.m., Libbey Court
Celebrate the beginning of Black History Month and the opening of the
exhibition, Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks by creating a number
of different beads and adding up to five to the Museum’s community art
project, The Bead Goes On.

FREE Presentation: David Parks Reminisces
7:30 p.m., Little Theater
David Parks talks about his father, Gordon Parks, and share insights into the
multi-talented man behind the photographs that are on view.

Friday, Feb. 12
FREE Public Tours: Gordon Parks and the Influence of Photography
6 and 6:30 p.m., Meet in Libbey Court

Friday, Feb. 19
FREE Presentation: Growing Up with Gordon
7:30 p.m., Little Theater
Listen as special guest Peter Kunhardt Jr., who grew up with Gordon Parks,
talks about the extraordinary photographer’s life. Kunhardt Jr. now serves as
director of the Gordon Parks Foundation.

Feb. 21, 23, 25
FREE Family Center Activities: Bring Yourself to LIFE!
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Celebrate the opening of Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks by
creating a Life magazine cover with your own face.

Friday, March 19
FREE Film & Presentation: Shaft
7 p.m., Glass Pavilion GlasSalon
Learn why Shaft was a 1971 breakthrough film directed by Gordon Parks, then
sit back and enjoy the movie. In 2000 the Library of Congress chose the
motion picture for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry for
being “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”

Friday, April 9
FREE Film: Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks
7:30 p.m., Little Theater
This retrospective on Gordon Parks’ extraordinary life serves as a brief social
history of America as well as a showcase for Parks’ work.

Friday, April 23
FREE Hands-on Activities: Bead a Butterfly, Bead a Bee
7-9 p.m., Libbey Court
Create beads inspired by boxer Mohammad Ali—one of the poignant subjects
in the Bare Witness exhibition—was said to “float like a butterfly, sting like a

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