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Curated by Nicole R. Fleetwood, 2022 recipient of The Gordon Parks Foundation's Genevieve Young Fellowship in Writing, Gordon Parks’s Mid-Century Aesthetic explores Gordon Parks's engagement with mid-century modern design and aesthetics. It aims to contextualize Parks’s remarkable oeuvre as a major decisive not only to photography but also to a broader political and aesthetic moment that marks the convergence of the US civil rights movement, growth in the entertainment industry, and other social and political changes during a period that encompasses World War II and the Cold War. Featured in the exhibition will be photographs from Parks's 1944/46 Grease Plant series, fashion images from 1949/50, as well as rarely-seen portraits of Parks from the same period.

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Launched in 2022, The Gordon Parks Foundation’s Genevieve Young Fellowship in Writing is awarded annually to a writer working in art history, journalism, and literature. The fellowship supports the research, development, and publication of a new project.

The Fellowship pays tribute to Genevieve Young (1930–2020), a legendary book editor who was also Gordon Parks’s former wife and the executor of his estate. She had a role in editing Parks’s first book, The Learning Tree, published in 1963. Young was instrumental in the creation of the Gordon Parks Foundation, established in 2006, and she served on the Foundation’s board from 2006 to 2020. Writing was central to Parks’s work, a means of expression that deepened the impact of his perspective. And like photography, writing offered endless opportunities for investigation and ingenuity, revealed through his work as a journalist, novelist, poet, and screenwriter.

Nicole R. Fleetwood is a writer and curator, and the James Weldon Johnson Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. A graduate of Miami University of Ohio with an MA and a Ph.D. from Stanford, and a 2021 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, she was the inaugural Gordon Parks Foundation Genevieve Young Fellow in Writing in 2022. Her book Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration won a National Book Critics Circle Award, the John Hope Franklin Prize, the Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship, and the College Art Association’s Charles Rufus Morey Book Award and Frank Jewett Mather Award. Her other books are On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness. Fleetwood contributed to Gordon Parks: The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957, co-edited Aperture’s “Prison Nation” issue, and co-curated a related touring exhibition. She has curated or co-curated exhibitions and programs at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, the Andrew Freedman Home, the Aperture Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Eastern State Penitentiary, MoMA PS1, Mural Arts Philadelphia, Worth Rises, and the Zimmerli Art Museum.

 

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Gordon Parks, Sr. posing with camera, 1945. Photograph by Morgan Smith (1910–1993) and Marvin Smith (1910–2003)

Selected Works

Gordon Parks, Grease Plant Worker, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1944

Slideshow

Gordon Parks, Balenciaga Sheath Cocktail Dress, Paris, France, 1950