Antwaun Sargent curates genre-defying photography exhibition in St. Louis

Antwaun Sargent curates genre-defying photography exhibition in St. Louis

At projects+gallery, St. Louis, critic, curator and author Antwaun Sargent has conceived an exhibition of young photographers who are turning their gazes to a new, genreless mode of photography 

In St. Louis, Missouri, a new exhibition is rethinking the definition of contemporary photography. ‘Just Pictures’ surveys a new age of genre-bending photographers whose work oscillates between contexts and disciplines of fine art, fashion photography, and the history of the medium. 

The exhibition is conceived and curated by critic and author Antwaun Sargent, and held at projects+gallery. Sargent is perhaps best known for his highly-lauded book, The New Black Vanguard, a critical, and strikingly visual anthology exploring how a new generation of young Black photographers are eradicating the parameters of art and fashion. 

Joshua Woods’ photograph, Black Power, 2019, part of Antwaun Sargent’s exhibition in St. Louis
Joshua Woods, Black Power, 2019

Along similar lines, ‘Just Pictures’ seeks to disrupt the conventional constraints of photography, in favour of a non-prescriptive approach where formal definitions are defunct and approaches are fluid. The resulting images could feel equally at home on the pages of glossy magazines, social media feeds, on museum walls or in domestic spaces. ‘Central to these images is the collaborative complicity of the image maker and their subjects but also the seemingly disparate histories of photography, from landscape and vernacular to portraiture and fashion,’ Sargent explains. 

The featured artists are Ruth Ossai, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Yagazie Emezi, Mous Lamrabat, Renell Medrano, Rafael Pavarotti, Joshua Kissi, Justin Solomon and Joshua Woods. Ruth Ossai uses fashion as a tool to transport narratives that explore and celebrate her personal history and the broader cultural identity of her subjects. Renell Medrano casts new light on street and documentary photography, with images imbued with glamour and rich symbolism.

Ruth Ossai, My Heart Is Clean, Lagos Nigeria, 2018, part of Antwaun Sargent’s exhibition, Just Pictures in St. Louis
Arielle Bobb Willis, New Orleans, 2017, part of Antwaun Sargent’s exhibition Just Pictures in St. Louis
Above: Ruth Ossai, My Heart Is Clean, Lagos Nigeria, 2018. Below: Arielle Bobb Willis, New Orleans, 2017

New York-based Medrano – whose recent photographic subjects have included the likes of Jay-Z and Solange – has a practice firmly rooted in her parents’ birthplace of the Dominican Republic, which she infused into her work documenting the streets of her childhood borough, the Bronx. Meanwhile, the surreal and luminous work of Arielle Bobb-Willis takes cues from the dynamic abstractions of 20th-century modernist painters including Jacob Lawrence and Milton Avery. 

‘The way these images move rapidly between contexts, garnering new and often contradictory meanings, that allow them to simultaneously operate as racial representations while also being discrete product shots, documentations of family and glossies of the latest fashion trends,’ says Sargent. ‘For this generation of emerging imagemakers, the photographer’s eye is illimitable: a picture is just a picture’ §

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