All The Boys
ABOUT THE ARTWORK
Who made it?
Considered one of the most influential Contemporary American artists, Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer and video installation artist who examines family relationships, sexism, class, the consequences of power, and the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity in the United States. Her images of figures in simple settings both document and interpret the centuries-old ongoing struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social inclusion in America.
Of her work, Weems says, “I cannot lead you to anything, but I hope that [my work] provokes critical inquiry” and “If my work encourages you to ask ‘what is that and what does it mean?’ Then, I think I have done my job.”
What’s going on in this work?
All the Boys stems from a larger project by Weems, that, in her own words, deals with “[the] sustained level of violence, the sustained level of threat to the body, to the Black body, to Black men, to Black women, to people of color, to women.” And recognizes, says Weems, that these “are images that we all know one way or another. We will all grapple with them one way or another. You’ve seen them on the news one way or another. And we’ve decided to look one way or another or we’ve decided not to look one way or another.”
The images of young Black men in hoodies in the All the Boys series are some of the most recognizable in our history of racial violence against Black Americans. By shrouding these photographs in blue—a color with meanings ranging from despair to peacefulness—Weems encourages us to reconsider the origins of the images, to spend time looking closely and reflecting on the figures, and to think about the mechanisms of oppression that led to their existence and widespread notoriety. The intentional blurring of the photographs forces us to move closer in an attempt to see more clearly and obscures the identity of the photographed figures. As a result, this teenager stands in for any young black male in any part of our country.
Take a closer look.
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June 1, 2020