Dawoud Bey’s career and art exemplify the power of art. While a teenager living in New York, the now Chicago-based artist went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the noise and demonstrations regarding the highly controversial Harlem on My Mind show. But when he got there nothing was going on outdoors, so instead he went to see the show. This was the first time the young Bey, as well as a lot of white folks of northern European heritage, had ever seen black subject matter in a museum. He was particularly moved by the signifcant work of James Van Der Zee (who if it weren’t for this show would probably have been lost to history.)
Dawoud Bey got a camera from a relative and began to shoot. Just eight years later he had a one-person show of his own at the Studio Museum of Harlem — which is now on exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. And at the Renaissance Society, opening Sunday is a survey of Bey’s work since then; most often pictures of youths of color who look directly into the lens, and because of the remarkable man behind the camera who is gentle, powerful, trusting and trusted, reveal themselves.
Vera Klement is an octogenarian kid, with the knowledge, wisdom and talent of her years and the energy, output and enthusiasm of someone a quarter of her age. She is a remarkably gifted painter whose work continues to grow — as is apparent in her show opening tonight at Zolla/Lieberman.Her sectioned paintings are like symphonies of self-contained movements that contribute to a larger whole. The poignant beauty of her work references literature, history and us.