Jenkins Johnson Gallery is pleased to present at Paris Photo the works of Ming Smith, Aida Muluneh, and Gordon Parks. Ming Smith was the first black female photographer acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, and Aida Muluneh was recently acquired by MoMA. Both women attended Howard University, which is part of America’s Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Renaissance man, Gordon Parks, was a pioneer of 20th century art, a beloved photographer, writer, composer and filmmaker whose career spanned over six decades. These three exceptional artists each provide commentary on social issues and the human experience through their unique and vastly different lens.
Our presentation of Ming Smith follows a successful showing at Frieze Masters, London that saw admirers including artist Yinka Shonibare CBE, artist and curator Isaac Julien, fashion designer Duro Olowu, Senior Curator of International Art (Photography) at Tate Modern Dr. Yasufumi Nakamori, soccer icon David Beckham, fashion desiger Victoria Beckham, and Director of Serpentine Galleries Hans Ulrich Obrist. As part of Paris Photo’s Platform Obrist and Smith will be in conversation on Saturday, November 9, from 4:15 to 5:00 pm at the Grand Palais.
We will present modern and rare vintage prints by Ming Smith, including her August Wilson and Invisible Man series inspired by American playwright and writers August Wilson and Ralph Ellison. Additionally, we will feature works taken during Smith’s travels as one of the first African American women to break the color barrier in modeling, alongside Grace Jones and Toukie Smith. Smith documents everyday moments through her ethereal and transcendent vision. She combines a deliberate blurriness with experimental post-production techniques including double exposed prints, collage, and painting, amplifying the works’ dream-like qualities. Smith was the first female member of the influential photography collective, Kamoinge, a Harlem based group of photographers whose mission was to show the boundless beauty of Black life. Smith worked alongside photographic greats l, Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks and Louis Draper. In 2020, Smith will be in the traveling exhibition, Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop, at the Virginia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum.
She was included in MoMA’s 2010 groundbreaking exhibition, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s 2017 exhibition, We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85. She will be featured in Arthur Jafa: A Series of Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions at the Serralves Museum in Portugal. This past May, Smith was awarded the 2019 Frieze NY Stand Prize for our presentation of her work in the Just Above Midtown section at Frieze NY curated by Franklin Sirmans. Nancy Spector, chief curator of the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum stated: “Our decision to honor the JAM initiative in general and Ming Smith in particular was unanimous. We recognized that the presentation constituted an important recuperation of an artist’s practice that is not as well-known as it should be.” Further underlining the importance of this work is the announcement of the exhibition, Just Above Midtown, at MoMA in 2022. Concurrently with Paris Photo, Smith will be featured in Down Time: On the Art of Retreat at the Smart Museum and in Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power organized by Tate Modern, opening at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, and then traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2020. In Fall 2020 Aperture will release a monograph on her work. Smith’s work is in museum collections including the National Gallery of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
At Paris Photo, we will unveil Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh’s new series, Mirror of the Soul. Mirror of the Soul draws from the artist’s day to day experiences living in Addis Ababa, the moments of uncertainty, and the subsequent global phenomena of having to embrace unpredictability. Looking to her background as a photojournalist, Muluneh uses this foundation of visual and symbolic language and blends it with the sentiments, intensity, and passion of poetry. The title of her new series comes from a line in Nikki Giovanni’s The Laws of Motion that reads, "The eyes however are the mirror to the soul.” Giovanni’s poems inspired Muluneh to likewise share what is within her, and to share it with fearless honesty. Muluneh’s vibrant photographs express what it is to be an African woman, to encapsulate gender and identity, and to position it within the post-colonial experience. She interrogates the foreign gaze, and also raises the awareness of the impact of photography in shaping cultural perceptions.
Muluneh was recently featured in the exhibition Water Life at Somerset House, the cover of Departures magazine, and Being: New Photography 2018 at MoMA. Other recent exhibitions include Reflections of Hope at the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto, the Daegu Photo Biennale in South Korea, and In Their Own Form at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. She was awarded the 2018 Catchlight Fellowship. In 2017, she participated in Afrique Capitales in Paris and in the Dakar Biennale. Muluneh founded the Addis Foto Fest, the first international photography festival in Ethiopia. She is in collections including MoMA, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture, Toledo Museum of Art, Hood Museum, and National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.
We will be presenting at Paris Photo Gordon Parks’ I AM YOU – a limited edition portfolio of 12 little-known works from the Civil Rights Era. As the world reacts to upheavals in global politics, Parks’ civil rights photo essays are especially relevant. Similar to the Muluneh’s commentary on the unrest in Ethiopia and Smith’s street scenes, Parks work captures the turmoil, unrest, and the human emotion of another tumultuous time in world history. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a reaction to political and cultural divides, and the present provides striking similarities. The current struggles in the U.S. and through the world for racial equality, freedom of religion, open immigration, women’s right and LGBTQ equality echo the activism portrayed in Parks’ photographs. Parks is in major museum collections around the globe including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the J. Paul Getty Museum.