PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2023

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Ming's Moment F or more than 50 years, Ming Smith has pioneered her own brand of street photography, married to a jazz score with painterly incursions. The resulting improvisational photographic prints share the energy of her subjects, which range from Grace Jones to Sun Ra, James Baldwin, and Tina Turner to the residents of Harlem, Pittsburgh's Hill District, and Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. Now, nearly a half-century after she began to push the possibilities of the photographic medium, Smith is in the cultural consciousness. Three shows have arrived in 2023: a solo this past spring at MoMA; inclusion in "Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility," opening next month at the Guggenheim; and her first museum retrospective which opened in May and was organized by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. This trifecta coincides with a lifetime photography accolade, the Lucie Award for Achievement in Portraiture, to be bestowed Monday, October 30, at Carnegie Hall. The first female member of the Black photographic collective the Kamoinge Workshop, Smith rose in the 1970s during the Black Power movement. This coincided with the era when photography was beginning its ascent into the mainstream art world — but not yet there, still viewed as a medium with a technical component. Later that decade, the Pictures Generation's talents such as Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Laurie Simmons began to grab headlines for feminist, conceptually based practices. Though Smith was the first Black female photographer collected by MoMA in 1979, gallery and museum opportunities for Black artists, especially women, were limited. But that never stopped Smith from creating. This month is an ideal time to contemplate Smith's talent, while her exhibition is still on view at the CAMH. We photographed Smith the morning following her CAMH opening, at The DeLUXE Theater in the Fifth Ward, a venue as groundbreaking as Smith herself. In 1971, "The DeLUXE Show," organized and supported by John and Dominique de Menil, marked the first integrated art exhibition in America. The CAMH continues its series of Ming Smith-inspired programming with the A Morning with Ming Smith at Houston's Historic DeLUXE Theater on the Occasion of Her First Museum Retrospective at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston By Catherine D. Anspon. Photography at The DeLUXE by Jay Tovar. ARTWORK IMAGES COURTESY MING SMITH STUDIO Ming Smith's Self Portrait with Camera, 1989 94

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