The VMFA Highlights Draper, Again

In conjunction with their Deborah Willis curated exhibition, Posing Beauty, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has compiled works by African-American artists from their own permanent collection entitled Identity Shifts. Among those works are several Louis Draper photographs, acquired by the VMFA in 2013 under the direction of Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Sarah Eckhardt.

From the VMFA press room:

“Since the museum’s founding in 1936, VMFA has actively collected work by African American artists. In conjunction with Posing Beauty, this collection-based display will feature works by African American artists that use representations of the human figure or some aspect of the body (including hair) to explore how we construct and perceive personal and cultural identity. The selection of paintings and sculptures from the 1970s to the present features an array of perspectives and styles that underscore the complex factors informing conceptions of race and gender. Many of the 21stcentury artists – such as iona rozeal brown, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Robert Pruitt – mix national, international, historical, and pop culture references with personal stylistic preferences to produce images that provoke more questions about identity than they answer. The selection of photographs offers a survey of 20thto 21st century work – from James VanDerZee to Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas – while also highlighting the work of lesser known artists, such as Richmond native Louis Draper, who played a primary role in founding the first African American photography collective, Kamoinge, in New York in 1963. Many of these works will be on view at VMFA for the first time.”

Here are some images included in the Identity Shifts exhibition:

Draper.0055 Draper.0061

Bronx, 1975

Bronx, 1975


2014: A Big Year for Draper

Lou Draper is starting out 2014 with several great accomplishments:

Candela Books + Gallery will host the first retrospective exhibition of Draper’s work. Retrospective will showcase over 40 photographs spanning Draper’s career, from the late 1950s to 1990s. Primarily a street photographer, Draper’s archive has revealed an incredible range of artistic skill, including portraiture and abstraction, which will all be highlighted in the exhibition.

In 1958, Draper moved from his hometown, Richmond, Virginia to Harlem to study photography. In those early years he photographed all over the streets of New York with a compassionate and discerning eye for the social conditions of the time, as well as quietly observing the nuances of mid-century city life. Among notable contemporaries he photographed are Langston Hughes, Hughie Lee Smith, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Katherine Dunham, and the civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer.

Draper was a founding member of the seminal black photographer’s collective originally named the Kamoinge Workshop, formed in 1963, which included Roy DeCarava as its first director. Other notable members of Kamoinge over the years: Ray Francis, Herb Randall, Al Fennar, Jimmie Mannas, Shawn Walker, Tony Barboza and Beuford Smith. Kamoinge and its photographers were featured in an important 1966 Camera Magazine issue, focused on Harlem and the increasing urgency of race relations in the United States at that time.

Draper’s sister, Nell Draper-Winston, became the executor of Draper’s estate upon his death in 2002, and together with her colleague, Cheryl Pelt, partnered up with Candela Books + Gallery to organize, research and promote the Draper archive, resulting in this important retrospective exhibition as well as placement among private and public collections, including the Virginia Museum of FIne Arts, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Virginia State University.

An opening reception will take place Friday, January 10, 2014 from 5-8pm at Candela Books + Gallery in Richmond, Virginia.


Also, several of Draper’s photographs are now in the permanent collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and will be featured in their upcoming exhibition: Signs of Protest, which opens January 11, 2014.


Both these exhibitions are part of Race, Place and Identitya collaboration of Richmond organizations highlighting Civil Rights and Social Justice throughout the first half of 2014.
Cheers to everyone involved in making these milestone events possible!