Carrie Mae Weems

Slow Fade to Black (Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Katherine Dunham), 2009-2011
three pigment prints, 49-1/4 x 37 inches (each framed) [125.1 x 94 cm]; 49-1/4 x 123 inches (framed overall) [125.1 x 312.4 cm]

Carrie Mae Weems is a widely influential American artist whose work gives voice to people whose stories have been silenced or ignored. Investigating history, identity, and power, she finds connections between personal experience and the larger structures and institutions that shape our lives. Over the course of forty years, she has built an acclaimed body of work using photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video.

Since the 1980s, Weems’s work has been seen around the world, and she has inspired a generation of artists with her poetic and original approach to storytelling. Throughout her career, Weems has exposed the belief systems that have maintained the status quo. In her iconic Kitchen Table Series, from 1990, Weems builds emotionally complex narratives through simply staged black and white photographs, casting herself in the role of lover, friend, mother, and solitary woman. The series depicts scenes that are both universal and specific to the Black lives they imagine. And 22 Million Very Tired and Very Angry People, 1989-1990, presents photographs of ordinary objects with captions that point to their use as tools for revolution. Bringing together these items with silk-screened banners of text, the piece addresses the power of collective action. With From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, 1995-96, Weems collects photographs of enslaved men and women and other Black subjects from museum and university archives. Pairing these images with powerful texts, Weems reveals the role photography has played in supporting and shaping racism.

Blue Sky, See Fellini, 2016
two pigment prints, 20-1/4 inches diameter (each framed)

Weems’s expansive practice has often overlapped with activism; in addition to her solo work, she has led collective public art projects and multi-disciplinary performances. In 2020, Weems directed The Baptism, a short film commissioned by Lincoln Center, which pairs images of nature, protest, and everyday life with a poem by Carl Hancock Rux, in tribute to the late activists John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. In 2016, Weems made Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, a collaborative multimedia performance that blends music, spoken word, dance, and video to explore the meaning of grace in the face of Black oppression. Weems has also brought together activists, artists, musicians, poets, theorists and writers, convening events such as Past Tense/Future Perfect at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Shape of Things at the Park Avenue Armory, where Weems was artist-in-residence. A version of The Shape of Things later traveled to LUMA Arles in France.

Color Real and Imagined, 2014
archival inkjet print with silkscreened color blocks, 38-7/8 x 54-7/8 inches (framed) [98.7 x 139.4. cm], edition of 10 + 2 APs
The Assassination of Medgar, Malcolm and Martin, 2008
pigment print, 61-1/2 x 51-1/2 inches (framed) [156.2 x 130.8 cm], edition of 5 + 2APs

Weems has often used performance marked by highly constructed artifice to explore how history is remembered and created. In Constructing History, made while an artist in residence at Savannah College of Art and Design, Weems worked with students and community members to re-enact moments of social upheaval from the 1960s and beyond, building stage-like photographic tableaux. In series such as Roaming, Weems photographed herself standing before the monumental architecture of powerful institutions around the world. Dressed in black and facing the buildings with her back to the camera, Weems asks the viewer to consider their own relationship to these historically charged locales.

Framed by Modernism, 1997
three gelatin silver prints, sandblasted glass, 31-1/8 x 31-1/8 inches (each framed) [79.06 x 79.06 cm each], edition of 4

Weems’s recent solo exhibitions include Reflections for Now at Barbican Art Gallery in London, the first major UK exhibition of her work, and The Evidence of Things Not Seen, which originated at Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (WKV), Germany, and traveled to Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland. Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with Fundación Foto Colectania and WKV organized A great turn in the possible, a survey of her work which opened in Barcelona in 2022. The solo exhibition Remember to Dream will open at Bard’s Hessel Museum of Art in June 2024.

Missing Link (Justice), from The Louisiana Series, 2003
pigment print, 41-1/4 x 29-1/4 inches (framed) [104.8 x 74.3 cm], edition of 6

Other recent highlights include the two person show Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue, which was organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan and traveled to the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida. In the spring of 2023, Weems served as the inaugural Agnes Gund Professor of the Practice of Arts and Social Justice at Brown University, a residency that culminated in the campus-wide activation collectively titled Varying Shades of Brown. She is currently the Artist in Residence at Syracuse University.

All the Boys (Profile 1), 2016
two archival pigment prints, 61-1/2 x 47-1/2 inches (each framed) [156.2 x 120.7 cm]

Previously, Weems has been featured in major exhibitions at museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain. She has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including a Hasselblad Award, a Bernd and Hilla Becher Prize, a MacArthur “Genius” grant, the U.S. State Department’s Medal of Arts, the Joseph Hazen Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, NEA grants, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. Her work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and The Tate Modern, London, among others.

People of a Darker Hue, 2016
single channel video, duration 14:51, dimensions variable, edition of 5