America in Crisis review – photographs of a country on the brink of civil war

America in Crisis review – photographs of a country on the brink of civil war

Photography, Art And Design

1/20/2022 10:05:00 PM

America in Crisis review – photographs of a country on the brink of civil war

The sorry state of the nation is spelt out as images of robotic stormtroopers at the George Floyd protests stand next to those taken during the turbulent 60s

Asking a question America still hasn’t answered … The Selma March, Alabama, US, 1965.Photograph: Bruce Davidson/Magnum PhotosYet the 60s don’t look so optimistic in Erwitt’s devastating photograph of Jackie Kennedy at her husband’s funeral in 1963. Today the most famous images of her black-clad mourning are Andy Warhol’s silkscreen pantings but where they are ashen icons, Erwitt takes us closer, through her veil, to see every twitch of her breaking face. Where she takes the tragedy of a nation on herself,

Read more: The Guardian »

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in an exhibition and book reporting the protests, assassinations and inequalities of the 1960s – a decade that seems in glowing retrospect almost incomparably more hopeful and joyous than today’s bitter times. Asking a question America still hasn’t answered … The Selma March, Alabama, US, 1965. Photograph: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos Yet the 60s don’t look so optimistic in Erwitt’s devastating photograph of Jackie Kennedy at her husband’s funeral in 1963. Today the most famous images of her black-clad mourning are Andy Warhol’s silkscreen pantings but where they are ashen icons, Erwitt takes us closer, through her veil, to see every twitch of her breaking face. Where she takes the tragedy of a nation on herself, Paul Fusco ’s colour pictures of the train that carried Bobby Kennedy’s coffin from New York to Washington in 1968, met by grieving crowds along the way, portray a great community of pain. Black and white Americans squeeze together along a platform to salute the passing train, from which Fusco was watching with his camera. In 2020 it was not the slaying of a famous politician that got people on the streets but the murder of a citizen, Floyd, during his arrest by Minneapolis police that united one half of America in tears of rage. One of the most convincing continuities in this exhibition is between images of the 60s civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter. Davidson’s photographs of the Selma freedom march in 1965 pick individuals out of the crowd whose faces make you wonder where they are now, what their later lives were like: a young Black marcher gazes at us over the American flag he’s carrying, asking a question America still hasn’t answered. Kris Graves’s picture of Robert E Lee’s equestrian statue in Richmond, Virginia in 2020, its colossal plinth completely covered with graffiti, points right past the 1960s to the never-healed wounds of slavery. The most startling images here from the original America in Crisis collection are portraits of Black sharecroppers in South Carolina in 1966. They seem still to be living in the Great Depression. Never-healed wounds … Lee Square, Richmond, Virginia, 2020. Photograph: Kris Graves/Courtesy of Sasha Wolf Projects Perhaps America is timeless in its wrongs, its founding sin, the hypocrisy of a nation based on the declaration that all people “are created equal” when southern states based their way of life on slavery, so endemic in its history that it cannot go on like this. Yet as you explore America in Crisis, the parallels between past and present fade. Things are clearly getting worse. There was hope and joy in 1969, after all. Protest, 60s style, seems innocent and childlike now. In