What Does Democracy Look Like?
Can an exhibition be more timely? What Does Democracy Look Like?, presented at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) in Chicago, addresses this hefty question through more than two hundred works from its outstanding collection. Co-curated by seven educators from Columbia College Chicago, the result is a diverse and impactful range of perspectives emphasizing the role photography plays as historical document, humanitarian voice, and artistic model through which better futures can be envisioned.
Issues of race, national identity, and representation loom large in the sections of the exhibition curated by Onur Öztürk, Melanie Chambliss, and Joshua Fisher. Öztürk’s contribution delivers a multicultural message of solidarity. Lines from Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet, which roughly translate as “To live! Like a tree alone and free / Like a forest in brotherhood / This yearning is ours,” underpin his selection of works. According to Öztürk, democracy lies between the respect for individuality and the responsibility for our communities. In this curatorial contribution, a rarely seen photo-graph of limestone sculptor William Edmondson by Louise Dahl-Wolfe works as a great reminder of the power interracial alliances can have. A son of enslaved people from Tennessee, Edmondson began working with limestone at around the age of sixty. It was on a trip to Nashville that Dahl-Wolfe first documented the artist’s work, and these photographs would prove influential in convincing Alfred Barr, the director of MoMA, to give Edmondson a solo show in 1937 — MoMA’s first solo exhibition by an African American artist.