Gallery exhibit features photographers' perspectives of New Haven

An exhibition of new works by photographers Jim Goldberg and Donovan Wylie at the Yale University Art Gallery focuses on images of New Haven.

“Candy/A Good and Spacious Land” celebrates the publication of a two-volume set of photo books by the same title. The exhibition and publication grew out of time that the artists spent in New Haven beginning in 2013 as Happy and Bob Doran Artists in Residence at the gallery. While many artists use the Doran residency as an opportunity to explore the gallery’s collections in depth and to access the resources of the university at large, Goldberg and Wylie opted instead to focus on the city of New Haven — its history and its unique character. The resulting images offer two complementary visions of the city: Goldberg, a New Haven native, captures the people and personal stories of his hometown, while the Northern Ireland–born Wylie examines New Haven through the framework of its highway infrastructure.

For Goldberg, the 2013 residency was a return to the place he had left four decades before. Taking memory and autobiography as a springboard, his project “Candy” explores New Haven from the point of view of someone seeing a familiar city with fresh eyes, and he created new work in his signature mode of intimate, informal portraits presented alongside the subjects’ own words. He combines this work with images and material from his childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, the era of Mayor Richard Lee, urban “renewal,” and the promotion of New Haven as a “Model City.” After delving into his own story, Goldberg mines the lives of two other New Haven natives who stayed in the city: Germano Kimbro, the child of a New Haven Black Panther, and Joseph Taylor, a lifelong resident and avid collector of New Haven imagery.

Wylie’s “A Good and Spacious Land,” by contrast, is a look at the city from an outsider’s point of view. His encounter with New Haven coincided with the reconstruction of Interstates 95 and 91 and the dramatic merge where the two come together, an enormous feat of engineering that appealed to his artistic sensibility. The omnipresent roadways in Wylie’s images suggest mobility and speed, a way in and out, and the possibility of passing over and through the city; the construction-in-progress that he captures further implies an ongoing faith in the promise that mobility holds. But Wylie’s roadways also frame the urban and natural landscape between and beneath the highways, highlighting the people and the human habitat that lie in the shadow of the massive transportation structure.

“Think of New Haven and Yale University looms large, yet the institution features only intermittently in the collective portrait of the city that emerges in ‘Candy/A Good and Spacious Land,’” states Pamela Franks, senior deputy director and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the gallery. “The exhibition and publication focus much more on the aspects of the city that are most often overshadowed by Yale, really attending to the people and place of New Haven. And whereas Yale University appears in sporadic but pointed references in Goldberg’s and Wylie’s works, the gallery appears not at all. Yet the spirit of what this museum strives to be infuses the entire project. The gallery prides itself on its engagement with artists and is equally committed to serving the university and the broader public, building community around our mission of providing free access to a world-class art collection as well as opportunities for learning with and from each other.”

The exhibition runs through August 20. On Friday, June 16, Franks will participate in a talk titled “Imagining New Haven: Engaging the City” with writer Nicholas Dawidoff; photographer and critic Lisa Kereszi, director of undergraduate studies at the Yale School of Art; and Elihu Rubin, associate professor at the Yale School of Architecture. The talk, offered in conjunction with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the gallery. It is free and open to the public.

The exhibition was organized by Franks and Judy Ditner, the Richard Benson Assistant Curator of Photography and Digital Media. It was made possible by the Happy and Bob Doran Artist-in- Residence Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund.

The Yale University Art Gallery is located at 1111 Chapel St. Its hours are Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (Thursday until 8 p.m. from September through June); and Saturday–Sunday,
11 a.m.–5 p.m. The gallery is closed Mondays and major holidays. For more information, visit gallery’s website.

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