For more than 15 years, Lawson has been exploring and challenging conventional representations of Black life through photography, drawing on a wide spectrum of photographic languages, including the family album, studio portraiture, staged tableaux, documentary pictures, and appropriated images.
Engaging acquaintances as well as strangers she meets in cities across Africa and the diaspora, Lawson uses imagery to build extended families of strangers in living rooms, kitchens, and backyards from Brooklyn to New Orleans, Haiti to Ethiopia, and Brazil to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The artist meticulously poses her subjects in highly staged photographs that weave together narratives of family, love, and desire, creating what she describes as “a mirror of everyday life.” In the artist’s own words, “it’s about setting a different standard of values and saying that everyday Black lives, everyday experiences, are beautiful, and powerful, and intelligent.”
Through a selection of more than 50 works from 2004 to the present, Deana Lawson features the full range of the artist’s career to date and establishes a narrative arc of her expansive vision for the first time. The exhibition represents a return to PS1 for Lawson, whose photographs were featured in the museum’s signature exhibition series Greater New York in 2010 and 2015.