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Gordon Parks, Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1952, gelatin silver print, 13 1/4 × 10 1/4".

Chicago

“Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem”

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
May 21 - August 28

Curated by Michal Raz-Russo

“Invisible Man” traces the artistic collaborations between photographer Gordon Parks and novelist Ralph Ellison (an avid recreational photographer who utilized photographic metaphors in his writing) via forty-five photographs; numerous related objects, including archival manuscripts; and an insightful catalogue. The show foregrounds their unpublished pictorial essay from 1948, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” which frames images of the neighborhood as both “document and symbol.” This collaboration focused on Harlem’s free, nonsegregated mental health clinic, which Ellison described as “a three-color camera capable of overlaying multiple dimensions of experience.” Also included is Parks’s photographic essay for Life, “A Man Becomes Invisible,” 1952, a striking series of surrealistic images that matched the emotional tenor of Ellison’s Invisible Man, published that same year. Illuminating both the parallels and divergences between Parks’s and Ellison’s work, this show promises a new perspective on the pair’s joint use of photography during the civil rights movement, a period of heightened attention to the rhetoric of images.