From Virginia Museum of Arts:
Exhibition features the work of 15 Kamoinge Workshop members and explores their role in 20th-century art history
Richmond, Virginia — The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will highlight the work of a remarkable group of African American photographers in the exhibition Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop. On display in Evans Court Gallery from Feb. 1 to June 14, 2020, the exhibition features nearly 180 photographs by fifteen of the early members of the Kamoinge Workshop. Working Together tells the story of the first two decades of this collective of artists, who expanded the boundaries of photography as an art form during a critical era of Black self-determination in the 1960s and 1970s. This free exhibition is curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, VMFA’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
The exhibition has local roots through Louis Draper (1935–2002), who was born in Henrico County and attended the Virginia Randolph School and Virginia State College (now University) before moving to New York in 1957. It was there that Draper met other African American photographers, and in 1963 they came together to form the Kamoinge Workshop. The word Kamoinge means “a group of people acting and working together” in Gikuyu, the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya. The collective met weekly to look at each other’s work, support one another, and organize their own exhibitions. They were also the driving force behind the Black Photographers Annual, a publication that featured the work of black photographers at a time when mainstream publications offered few opportunities for African Americans. Besides Draper, the early Kamoinge members represented in this exhibition are Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Danny Dawson, Roy DeCarava, Al Fennar, Ray Francis, Herman Howard, Jimmie Mannas, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, Ming Smith, Shawn Walker and Calvin Wilson.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 304-page illustrated catalogue by Eckhardt, which includes a preface by Deborah Willis and additional essays by Erina Duganne, Romi Crawford, John Edwin Mason and Bill Gaskins. After the exhibition closes at VMFA it will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and two additional museum venues in the United States.
Credit: Kamoinge Group Portrait (detail), 1973, Anthony Barboza (American, born 1944), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Courtesy Eric and Jeanette Lipman Fund, 2019.249 © Anthony Barboza Photography