Dorothea Lange photography exhibition opens at Frist Art Museum

Dorothea Lange. Crossroads General Store, Gordonton, North Carolina, 1939. Archival pigment print. © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor.

The Frist Art Museum presents Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing, an exhibition that examines a broad range of the artist’s work through the lens of social and political activism. The Frist is the only U.S. venue that is hosting this exhibition after its 2017 debut in California. In addition to presenting Lange’s iconic photographs from the Great Depression, the exhibition will feature works from her early years as a studio portraitist in San Francisco, along with images of the grim conditions of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, naval shipyard workers of different sexes and races contributing to the patriotic cause, and inequity in our judicial system in the 1950s.

Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) is recognized as one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century, and her insightful and compassionate work has exerted a profound influence on the development of modern documentary photography. With hardship and human suffering as a consistent theme throughout her career, Lange created arresting portraits with the aim of sparking reform. Politics of Seeing encompasses approximately 130 vintage and modern photographs and personal memorabilia, including a handwritten letter from the author John Steinbeck. Portions of a documentary produced by one of Lange’s granddaughters will also be on view.

Lange knew from a young age that she wanted to be a photographer. In San Francisco, she began work in a photography shop and quickly became enmeshed within the city’s artistic community. In 1919, she opened what would become a successful portrait studio. Lange shifted her attention from capturing the city’s elite to the impoverished unemployed figures she saw on the streets through her studio window as the devastating effects of the economic depression spread throughout the country.

“Lange applied her skill as a portraitist to connect with her subjects throughout her career,” says Frist Art Museum curator Katie Delmez. “Her empathy for the ‘walking wounded,’ which she attributed to her own experience of living with a physical disability, led her to create photographs meant to raise awareness of suffering and injustices.”

Organized by the Oakland Museum of California, which houses Lange’s personal archive, the exhibition will be on view in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from March 15 through May 27, 2019.

Mark Your Calendars for this month’s Frist Friday, March 29
The Frist Art Museum presents Frist Friday: Across the Pond on Friday, March 29, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. offering visitors opportunities to experience art in new and unexpected ways with live performances by Birdtalker, English Country Dancing Lessons, and Stick Horse Dressage; food trucks Bob’s Fish Fry, Il Forno Wood Fired Pizza, S’more Love Bakery, and Daddy’s Dogs; beverage specials, plus exhibition-themed tastings. In the lobby, VonElrod’s will offer complimentary “Bangers and Mash” tastings and TailGate Brewery will offer complimentary tastings of “Snakebite” lager/cider. Admission to this Frist Friday is free for Frist Art Museum members and visitors 18 years and younger. General adult admission is $20 for not-yet-members and $15 for college students.