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Dawoud Bey in Selections from Night Coming Tenderly, Black

This exhibition of the work of Chicago-based photographer and educator Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953) features selections from his recent black-and-white photographic series Night Coming Tenderly, Black. These images reimagine sites along the last stops of the Underground Railroad from Cleveland and Hudson, Ohio, to Canada, a free country for self-liberated African people. Bey finds inspiration for this series in the soft tones and significant subjects—African Americans and New York City jazz musicians among them—depicted by photographer Roy DeCarava (1919–2009). The title of Bey’s series comes from the final line of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations,” (1926): “Night coming tenderly/Black like me.” (Hughes’s poem is featured in its entirety in Kemper Museum’s app tour in addition to examples of DeCarava’s work). Bey’s silvery images illustrating darkened twilight scenes of homes and wooded landscapes parallel the sensory portrayal of Hughes’s poem as both describe the aspirations of freedom from racial discrimination. Bey’s works highlight the significance of representation in fully understanding American history, literature, and art history. 

Selections from Night Coming Tenderly, Black are generously on loan from the Kansas City-based collection of Bill and Christy Gautreaux. This exhibition is organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and curated by Jade Powers, assistant curator. 

Image: Dawoud Bey, American, born 1953, Untitled #13 (Trees and Reflections), 2017, from the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black, gelatin silver print, 44 x 55 inches. Collection of Christy and Bill Gautreaux, Kansas City, Missouri, art and photo © Dawoud Bey, courtesy Rena Bransten Gallery

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