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Menil Collection Opens The Whole World Was Watching Civil Rights-Era Photographs from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil

The The Menil Collection presents The Whole World Was Watching; Civil Rights-Era Photographs from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil on view through September 25, 2011.

This exhibition presents a selection of work from an extraordinary gift to the Menil Collection by Adelaide de Menil and Edmund Carpenter: 230 civil rights-era photographs. The work, by Dan Budnik, Danny Lyon, Bruce Davidson, Leonard Freed, Bob Adelman, and Elliott Erwitt, captures the profound changes taking place in the United States beginning in the 1960s. It includes a wide variety of striking images that deal with race and politics: marchers on the road from Selma to Montgomery, Dr. Martin Luther King in protest, cotton workers in the Mississippi Delta, prison labor camps in Texas, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Dan Budnik, March on Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. moments after delivering his ‘I HAVE A DREAM’ speech, Lincoln Memorial, 1963 (Aug. 28) ©Dan Budnik 1999 The Menil Collection, Houston, gift of Adelaide de Menil Carpenter and Edmund Carpenter Photo: © Hester + Hardaway Photographers Fayetteville Texas

“The Whole World is Watching” was a phrase adopted by radical and leftist political groups in the 1960s to aggregate change, including anti-Vietnam war demonstrators, and student activists, like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. With the advent of television and the new ubiquity of printed media in everyday life, live broadcasts and the immediate dissemination of shocking images were playing a powerful role. The media was helping to finally shed light on violence, and racial injustice, and the American people could no longer turn their backs. The photographers in the show were involved with showing the world both the struggle, and victories of those fighting for civil rights. As photographers and artists, their work is not only important photojournalistic documentation. It is also extraordinary works of art, in themselves. With complex formal compositions and masterful plays with light and framing, they are indelible statements.

To supplement the exhibition, organized by associate curator Michelle White, the museum has invited professor Gerald O’Grady, fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard, and founder of the Rice University Media Center, to curate a summer film series of important films of the civil rights era, and lecture on how the then new forms of film and photography in the 1960s served as a such critical tools for advocating social change.

This exhibition is generously supported by Mark Wawro and Melanie Gray, Roy and Evelyn Nolen, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., Goldman, Sachs & Co., Michael Zilkha and the City of Houston.

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