Gordon Parks: I Am You

May 10 - June 2, 2018

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 10, 6-8 PM 
Talk with Paul Roth & Dr. Julie Crooks: Saturday, May 12 at 1:30 PM

What I want. What I am. What you force me to be is what you are. For I am you staring back from a mirror of poverty and despair, of revolt and freedom. Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself.

- Gordon Parks, 1967

Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce I Am You, an exhibition of photographs by Gordon Parks. The exhibition will open on May 10th and run until June 2nd with an opening reception on May 10th.  This is Parks’ third solo exhibition at the gallery.  

Between 1947 and 1967, Gordon Parks documented issues related to the civil rights movement in the United States with unprecedented candor and insight. His photographs and photo essays for Life magazine from this period including Harlem Gang Leader (1948), Invisible Man (1952) and A Segregation Story (1956) are, in large part, responsible for Parks establishing himself as one of the most groundbreaking photographers of the 20th century.

In 2017, The Gordon Parks Foundation published, I Am You, a striking portfolio containing twelve of Gordon Parks’ most poignant and influential photographs capturing the civil rights era in the United States. This exhibition features photographs included in the portfolio as well as other seminal images. As with all of Parks’ work, his lens transcended documentation, telling a story that was both personal and multi-faceted. Portraits of civil rights leaders including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson and Eldridge Cleaver, are not depicted as icons but rather as fellow citizens. Parks illustrated their power and charisma by highlighting their humanity - the illuminated faces on the audience at a Malcolm X rally; Rosa Parks in profile wearing an expression of quiet discontent and Jackie Robinson in a suit, his son holding his hand.

What we know of as the civil rights movement was a war of ideals. Parks’ camera delivered images from many of the theaters in which this conflict played out. In saying “I Am You,” he was riffing on a theme fundamental to that segregated sliver of American history, reiterating an utterance of the control group in the democratic experiment… Parks was visually articulating a premise fundamental to democracy: that one is able to see the humanity of one’s fellow citizen. The flickering American commitment to this reciprocity is, then, a flickering commitment to the founding ideal of the republic itself. To the extent that the struggles, demands, hopes, screams, aspirations, and prayers of its black constituents have functioned as a reminder of this principle, we owe a good deal of the credit to Parks’ own vision. 

- Jelani Cobb, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

Gordon Parks was foremost a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. In addition to being an internationally renowned photographer, Parks was also a noted composer and author. Parks overcame significant obstacles in the course of his career: he was the first African American photographer to join the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and to become part of Life magazine’s staff of photographers; the first journalist to publish a photo essay about a Harlem gang; and the first African American to write and direct a Hollywood feature film based on his bestselling novel The Learning Tree. This was followed in 1971 by the classic motion picture, Shaft. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and continued working until his death in 2006. Nicholas Metivier Gallery represents Gordon Parks exclusively in Canada and works in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation.