“Artificial night”: on Dawoud Bey’s America
              Anna Mirzayan
              Earlier this month, the touring exhibition “Dawoud Bey: An American Project” arrived at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. This retrospective of the photographer’s 45-year career—which opened in February at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and will move next spring to New York’s Whitney—features portraits and photographs from the 1970s to the mid-2000s. These black-and-white images are often shot outdoors and depict majority Black communities in the US—such as those in Brooklyn, Harlem, Orlando, and Birmingham—engaging in everyday activities and moments of communal joy. “An American Project” also features works from Bey’s 2017 series “Night Coming Tenderly, Black,” which comprises large, dark rural landscape photographs taken at sites rumored to have been stops on the Underground Railroad, along which Black people travelled in secret to escape slavery. By presenting these two seemingly disparate projects simultaneously, this retrospective insists that viewers attend to both types of works together; in doing so, the exhibition aims to overcome a common thematic split between images that depict people and those, like landscapes, that do not. Considering these works as continuous, however, reveals fruitful new ways of thinking. The gelatin silver prints in “Night Coming Tenderly, Black” are moody and dim, overlaid …

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