new-york

Dawoud Bey

David Beitzel Gallery

Emotion has been the theme of Dawoud Bey’s work since his early pictures of everyday life on the streets of Harlem, Mexico, and Puerto Rico (ca. 1975–85). The best of these black and white studies, taken with a 35-mm camera, are distinguished by close observation of, and measured sympathy for, moments of ordinary feeling that transform a passing stranger into the hero of his section of sidewalk, or turn the street into landscape. Bey’s sensibility is attuned equally to sparks of laughter, the melancholy of waiting, and the intensity that quickens a step or lengthens a stride.

Since 1991, Bey has taken Polaroid portraits of mostly African-American subjects, rendered in a palette of glowing browns, tans, golds, and reds. The unwieldy, slowly operating 20-by-24-inch Polaroid view camera he now uses has led Bey to explore the conventions of traditional portraiture: subject on the picture plane,

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