The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to present An Imaginative Arrangement of the Things Before Me, an exhibition of new works by artist Tyler Mitchell, a 2020 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellow, curated by Deborah Willis. Mitchell is known for his images that reflect and celebrate the vast beauty and intimacies of Black American life.
Inspired by Gordon Parks’s photographs of Black families, Tyler’s work constructs distinctive stories that reframe the notion of home as a center of Black life. Taking as a starting point private and public archives of family photographs, and engaging material references such as antique frames, carpet, upholstery, and porcelain plates that evoke domestic spaces, Mitchell has created a new series of images and a site-specific installation. By merging private memories with public narratives, he reimagines the collective histories of the African Diaspora and Black migration as a family portrait.
Mitchell writes, “I want to consider the significance of a proverbial domestic space not only as a site of Black life itself but also as a site where desires, longing, and collective family memory exist. I hope to create a comforting and tender space for people to go and escape into.”
Mitchell’s work pays homage to identities within the construct of family—siblings, mothers and daughters, sons and fathers—across generations. He honors these family connections by posing his subjects in intimate spaces in their homes as well as in traditional portrait studios. The resulting photographs—among them, Ancestors and Generations—depict play and contemplation, leisure and spirituality, and invite us to consider new narratives about beauty and family. Further, the gallery space itself is transformed into an intimate domestic space, at its center The Grand Sofa—an intricately designed sofa upholstered in printed fabric that features portraits of beloved family members—that serves as a reimagining of everyday objects that hold memories, histories, and lives lived. An Imaginative Arrangement of the Things Before Me explores a shared understanding of what it means to remake, remember, and preserve the family photograph in the twenty-first century.
Tyler Mitchell (b. 1995 Atlanta) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received a BFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam, as well as the International Center of Photography in New York. He has also been included in group exhibitions at the Aperture Foundation in New York, and Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn. He has lectured on the politics of image-making at Harvard University, Paris Photo, the International Center of Photography, and other institutions. Mitchell was awarded the 2020 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, which culminated in this exhibition.