Carrie Mae Weems First Major Solo UK Exhibition Opens in London

“Reflections of Now,” a major exhibition of work by internationally renowned artist Carrie Mae Weems H’17, Syracuse University’s first-ever artist in residence, opened June 22 at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. Weems’ first major solo U.K. exhibition will run through Sept. 3.

Carrie Mae Weems, center, an opening of London show.

Carrie Mae Weems, center, at the opening of her show at the Barbican Art Gallery in London (Photo courtesy of the Goodman Gallery)

Widely considered to be one of the most influential American artists working today, Weems is celebrated for her exploration of identity, power, desire and social justice through work that challenges representations of race, gender and class. Through her intimate and thought-provoking images, Weems challenges societal norms, reclaims narratives and encourages views to critically examine their own assumptions and biases.

This presentation of Weems’ multidisciplinary work captures the performative and cinematic nature of her practice through photographs, films and installations, from the iconic “Kitchen Table Series” (1990) to “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried” (1995-96), focused on systemic racism, to the incisive film installation “The Shape of Things” (2021), calling out the “pageantry” of contemporary American politics.

The Evening Standard calls the exhibition “breathtaking” and “a transcendent show from an artist who has delivered for 30 years.”

“My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals, to beautify the mess of a messy world,” Weems told Dazed. The exhibition’s co-curator, Raúl Muñoz de la Vega, added, “Beauty and elegance is a key formal aspect of saying her work. In order to lure you to enter a very difficult conversation, she does it with the trick of beauty.”

The exhibition is accompanied by “Carrie Mae Weems: Reflections for Now,” the first publication devoted to her writings. It will highlight Weems’ influence as an intellectual, reflecting the dual nature of her career as an artist and an activist.

Carrie Mae Weems greeting guests at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.

Carrie Mae Weems, right, greeting guests at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. (Photo courtesy of the Goodman Gallery)

2023 has been a busy year for Weems. She was the guest of honor at the 12th Annual Brooklyn Artists Ball, presented by Dior, on April 25 at the Brooklyn Museum. She was honored for her “innumerable contributions as both a trailblazing artist and a community-focused activist.” An exhibition featuring “The Shape of Things” opened at the Luma in Arles, France, in May.

Together, with the Barbican exhibition, “Perhaps we’ll finally get the message on this side of the pond, too, that Carrie Mae Weems deserves our fullest attention,” wrote Caroline Roux in the Financial Times.

On Aug. 15, a video presentation and talk with Weems on her work “Leave, Leave Now” will be held at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts (Martha’s Vineyard). The event is presented by the University’s Office of Multicultural Advancement and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.

Earlier this year, Weems was named a 2023 Hasselblad Award laureate by the Hasselblad Foundation, a prize that is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of photography. An award ceremony will take place on Oct. 13 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

MacArthur Fellowship (a.k.a. “Genius Grant”) recipient and the first African American woman to have a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, Weems has used multiple mediums (photography, video, digital imagery, text, fabric and more) throughout her career to examine themes of cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, family relationships and the consequences of power.

Weems has created a complex body of work that centers on her overarching commitment to helping us better understand our present moment by examining our collective past. Determined as ever to enter the picture—both literally and metaphorically—Weems has sustained an ongoing dialogue within contemporary discourse for over 35 years.

As artist in residence at Syracuse University, Weems engages with faculty and students in a number of ways, including working with students in the design, planning and preparation of exhibitions. The artist in residence program is overseen by the Office of Academic Affairs.

Weems first came to Syracuse in 1988 to participate in Light Work’s artist-in-residence program. Over the years, she has participated in several programs at Light Work and has a long history of engaging with students and the University community.

She has received numerous awards, grants and fellowships, including the MacArthur Fellowship, U.S. Department of State’s Medal of Arts, Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, National Endowment of the Arts fellowship and Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, among many others.

Weems is represented in public and private collections around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum of American Art; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Weems has been represented by Jack Shainman Gallery since 2008.

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