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Prison Obscura - Exhibition

Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center 2 West 13th Street New York, NY 10011

Curator's talk: Thursday, February 5, 5:45 p.m., followed by an opening reception 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook, Prison Obscura explores an area of society that, in spite of its explosive growth, continues to exist in the shadows: the country’s prisons and jails. Presenting rarely seen vernacular, surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs, the exhibition sheds light on the prison industrial complex and those it confines.

The works in Prison Obscura vary from aerial views of prison complexes to intimate portraits of incarcerated individuals. Artist Josh Begley and musician Paul Rucker use imaging technology to depict the sheer size of the prison industrial complex, which houses 2.3 million Americans in more than 6000 prisons, jails and detention facilities at a cost of $70 billion per year; Steve Davis led workshops for incarcerated juvenile in Washington State to reveal their daily lives; Kristen S. Wilkins collaborates with female prisoners on portraits with the aim to compete against the mugshots used for both news and entertainment in mainstream media; Robert Gumpert presents a nine-year project pairing portraits and audio recordings of prisoners from San Francisco jails; Mark Strandquist uses imagery to provide a window into the histories, realities and desires of some incarcerated Americans; and Alyse Emdur illuminates moments of self-representations with collected portraits of prisoners and their families taken in prison visiting rooms as well as her own photographs of murals in situ on visiting room walls. Also, included are images presented as evidence during the landmark Brown v. Plata case, a class action lawsuit that which went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it was ruled that every prisoner in the California State prison system was suffering cruel and unusual punishment due to overcrowded faciltiies and the failure by the state to provide adequate physical and mental healthcare.

At The New School, Prison Obscura connects to Humanities Action Lab (HAL) Global Dialogues on Incarceration, an interdisciplinary hub that brings together a range of university-wide, national, and global partnerships to foster public engagement on America’s prison system.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ‘60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, PA.

Upcoming programs: (In the gallery unless otherwise noted.)

Mid-day discussion with curator Pete Brook and Tim Raphael, Director, The Center for Migration and the Global City, Rutgers University-Newark.
Wednesday, February 4, 12:00–1:30 p.m.
Co-hosted with the Humanities Action Lab.

Curator’s Tour with Pete Brook
Thursday, February 5, 5:45 p.m.

These Images Won’t Tell You What You Want: Collaborative Photography and Social Justice. 
Friday, February 27, 6:00 p.m.
A talk by Mark Strandquist.

Windows from Prison
Saturday, February 28, 10:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m.
A workshop led by Mark Strandquist. Join a diverse group of artists, activists, individuals who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system, and many others for a day of dialogue, citizen journalism, and a cross-city workshop. We will work together to produce images that have been requested by prisoners in and around NYC. 

More information about participation is available on our website.

Visualizing Carceral Space 
Thursday, March 12, 6:00 p.m.
A talk by Josh Begley.

GALLERY HOURS

Open daily 12:00 noon - 6:00 p.m. and late Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m.; closed on all major holidays and holiday eves. Admission is free.

Image: Untitled, Green Hill School, Chehalis, WA. Made by young prisoner. Photo: Anonymous, courtesy of Steve Davis.

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