ABOVE PHOTO: Daughters On The Grass, By Andre Bradley
Using unique artistic styles, two artists challenge historical representations of the Black community
As the social perception of minorities remains at the forefront of the nation, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) highlights the work of two artists who explore the relationship between their own experiences as Black men, and the historical representation of the Black community. Interference, featuring Andre Bradley and Paul Anthony Smith, runs March 9-May 20, 2017 in the PPAC gallery (1400 N. American St.), with an opening reception and artist talk on March 9 from 6-8PM.
Andre Bradley, a former PPAC Artist in Residence, is a native Philadelphian whose work is based on autobiographical experience. Bradley’s critically-acclaimed “Dark Archives” series interweaves his writing and photographs with pictures from his family archive, in an attempt to upset the linguistic and visual constrictions placed on black males. In one image, we see Bradley’s old elementary school portrait. Visually, the photo shows signs of being handled, loved and damaged over the years, just as the person in it has been. The result is both a provocative exploration of Bradley’s childhood memories, as well as a search for wholeness, viability, and ground from which he can speak. For Interference, Bradley reimagines his images and text from “Dark Archives” for the gallery space.
Paul Anthony Smith, a Brooklyn-based artist from Jamaica, focuses his work on disguise and revelation, personal memories, and the conscious and unconscious construction of perception. Smith transforms original and found images into intricate, obscured collages using techniques like silkscreen printing and picotage, which involves picking up layers of the photographic paper with a ceramics tool. One collage from Smith’s “Grey Area” series depicts two shadowy photos of unidentified men, cut and pieced together to form an entirely new image. No faces can be seen, suggesting to the viewer that a person cannot be fully understood through a single photo. This masked visual quality of Smith’s work expresses a complex and strange relationship between memory, personal experience, history, and perception.
“I wanted a pairing [of artists] that helps us see, understand, think, or feel about all of the work at a level we wouldn’t otherwise have done,” says curator Nathaniel Stein, Fellow in Photography at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “They are both talking about social and personal dimensions of the relationship between hiding and revealing, and about the ways photographs do both at once.” Together, Bradley and Smith’s distinct but related styles explore experiences of selfhood and community as inseparable from the stereotypes that pervade the representation of the Black community.
“With Interference, we’re happy to exhibit Paul Anthony Smith in Philadelphia for the first time, alongside Andre Bradley, a native to the city,” said PPAC Executive Director Sarah Stolfa. “Beyond promoting these worthy talents, it’s important to showcase art that challenges audiences to think deeper, and incites a dialogue around issues that matter.”
Interference was made possible with the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
The PPAC gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10AM-6PM. For more information on Interference, visit the website.
The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center was founded in 2009 and is dedicated to fostering the study, practice, and appreciation of contemporary photography. These three pillars of PPAC’s mission support the production and exhibition of work at the leading edge of photographic practice, in-depth education, and innovative programming connecting artists with audiences, engaging them as more than just passive viewers of work, but as part of the creative process. For more info, visit www.philaphotoarts.org.