Carrie Mae Weems currently has two exhibitions in Chelsea at Jack Shainman Gallery’s spaces. Included in the work at the 24th Street space is All the Boys (2016), in which slightly blurred images of young black men wearing hooded sweatshirts are placed next to text panels that include information, some of it redacted, about the black victims of police violence. While those images are more subtle, the most affecting piece in the exhibition is the video All The Boys: Video in Three Parts. It includes some of the cell phone footage from several of the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police, including Eric Garner and Philando Castile, and is incredibly difficult to watch. This is interspersed with funeral scenes, the dreamlike image of a man running on a treadmill with a clock in the background, and Weems’ calm voice speaking over the scenes.
In the 20th Street space are images that will be more familiar to those aware of Weems’ previous work Roaming and Museums and is an interesting contrast to the work in the other gallery. In Scenes & Take (2016), she places herself, with her back to the viewer, on the sets of various successful television shows created by and starring black people, including Empire and Scandal. She then includes commentary in text on the side of the images.
In a recent interview with the New York Times she mentions the reasoning behind this focus on Hollywood-
I decided to go and stand in spaces where I think significant transformations are taking place in television as a way of pointing, trying to understand the role of black actors. Directors like Lee Daniels and Shonda Rhimes are laying the foundation for what can be imagined within the context of American culture. Most people go for their programming to paid television, so there’s an economic shift. Network television has been left to poor people.
Both these exhibitions close Saturday 12/10/16.