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Deanna Lawson Explores Blackness in Meticulously Staged Portraits

The artist’s largest exhibition to date is now on view at Kunsthalle Basel.

New York-born artist  Deana Lawson is renowned for her photo-based works that address themes of memory, community, and familial legacy. She constantly questions the multifarious identity and materiality of Black culture through carefully staged portraits of subjects based on drawings and sketches she creates before each photo session. Her portraiture often includes predetermined objects, such as furnishings in her images taken in domestic indoor spaces, to elevate distinct narratives on Blackness.

Lawson just launched her largest solo exhibition to date at Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland. Titled “Centropy,” the presentation features a new series by the photographer that was developed in the city of Salvador in Bahia. A selection of around 20 large-scale works including smaller pieces and video are on display. The show immerses viewers into modern Black culture across four countries including the USA, Brazil, Jamaica and Ghana. One of the highlighted works on show is Daenare which portrays a nude pregnant woman with a tracking device around one of her ankles — the photo was captured by Lawson in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

“Sensitive to the stereotypes in Western, African and afro-descendant portraiture, Lawson predominantly explores topics such as physicality, identity, gender and family in a practice that is grounded in thorough research on blackness and representativeness,” as per a press statement on the artist’s works. “Lawson’s new series was developed in the city of Salvador, in Bahia, one of the Brazilian regions where the rites, gastronomy, religions and music of African origin are most present.”

Take a look at select works in the slideshow above. “Centropy” is currently on view at Kunsthalle Basel until October 11, 2020.

Elsewhere in art, artists have launched initiatives to benefit Black Lives Matter and justice organizations.

Kunsthalle Basel
Steinenberg 7, 4051
Basel, Switzerland

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