Black identity, artistry and power celebrated in new Dal exhibitions

On Feb.3-April 7 at the Dalhousie Art Gallery

- February 1, 2024

A photograph from the Allen D. Crooks: Family Matters exhibition, opening this week at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. (Allen D. Crooks)
A photograph from the Allen D. Crooks: Family Matters exhibition, opening this week at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. (Allen D. Crooks)

Family is at the heart of two exhibitions opening this Friday evening at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. Allen D. Crooks: Family Matters and the Wedge Collection’s As We Rise: Photography From the Black Atlantic have been paired together in a compelling showcase of Black identity, artistry, and power.

Both exhibitions are rooted in the Black diasporic community.

“The Black Atlantic exhibition is really about a space for Black artists from around the world —from the continent, but also from the Caribbean, from the States, from the U.K., and other spaces — coming together to share their creative impulses and ideas around photography and about using photography to represent the community in a way that is positive and uplifting and celebratory,” says Pamela Edmonds, curator and director at the gallery.

Edmonds explains that the title As We Rise was derived from the phrase ‘Lifting as we rise’ that Wedge Collection owner Dr. Ken Montague’s father used to say.

“The sentiment of when you do better, you bring people with you and that's kind of what speaks to what Wedge does — supporting artists, supporting curators, supporting the community, and giving back, sharing the work with the broader public.”

A collection is born

Montague began the Wedge Collection in Toronto in 1997, and it is now the largest collection of Black contemporary portraiture in Canada. As We Rise is a curation of Dr. Montague’s collection done by Elliot Ramsey. It features more than 100 photographic works by over 75 Black artists originally compiled for a book styled to resemble a family photo album. The book was published in 2021 by Aperture (New York), a non-profit photography publisher that has organized a traveling exhibition of the work as well.

“Montague started this collection actually showing it in his own apartment,” Edmonds says. “The name ‘wedge’ came from the shape of the space in his home, and more broadly, the idea is to wedge a space for Black artists within the art world.”

The exhibition has stopped in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Salem, Massachusetts. Edmonds first saw the As We Rise exhibition while it was in Toronto at the University of Toronto Art Gallery, and now, because of her, it is here at Dal from February 2 to April 7, 2024.

“I thought this would be a great exhibition to bring to the Maritimes given my new role at Dal and my own interests as a curator for cultural equity in the arts, and also making space for more diverse artists in the Canadian art world,” explains Edmonds.

As We Rise showcases Black artists from the Americas, Europe, and Africa and includes high-profile photographers such as Kehinde Wiley (who painted U.S. President Barack Obama’s portrait), Liz Johnson Artur, Texas Isaiah, Dawit L. Petros, and Gordon Parks, just to name a few.

Petros Hadenbes photo from As We Rise.

Kennedi Carter image from As We Rise

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A heartfelt homage

The Family Matters collection was drawn from the work of Halifax-based photographer Allen D. Crooks and curated by Edmonds specifically to be seen along with As We Rise as both engage with a strong sense of family, unity, and familiarity.

Crooks owns Halifax Darkroom, one of the only analog darkrooms available for use in Halifax.

“I think the style of Allen's work resonates with As We Rise, particularly. It's all black and white photos, all analog,” Edmonds says. “And some of the artists in the show, like Gordon Parks for example — an important documentary street photographer—was a direct influence on Allen, so you'll see some similar, you know, some influential kind of methods that they share.”

Family Matters also aims to be representative of the local African Nova Scotian community.

“It’s a heartfelt homage to the profound importance of familial connections, revealed through his intimate and deeply human connection with each subject,” says Edmonds. “Through Crooks’s lens, this exhibit serves as a testament to enduring strength and rich cultural heritage, showcasing the beauty found in the nuances of daily life and the invaluable ties that bind us together.”

Allen D. Crooks photo from Family Matters.

Crooks self-portrait from Family Matters.

This week’s opening happens Friday, Feb. 2 (7-10 p.m.) in the Dalhousie Art Gallery, located inside the lower level of the Dalhousie Arts Centre at 6101 University Avenue in Halifax. Admission is free and Caribbean style refreshments from East Coast Conch will be served throughout the evening in the Sculpture Court.

The musical component of the show will begin at 8:00 p.m. DJ R$ $mooth (CKDU 88.1) will be spinning sounds influenced by As We Rise: Sounds from the Black Atlantic, the new record released by Aperture to accompany the As We Rise book and exhibition.

Artist Allen D. Crooks, Dr. Kenneth Montague of the Wedge Collection, As We Rise Curator Elliott Ramsey, and Edmonds will all be in attendance.

Related Events

Exhibition Talk and Book/LP signing with Dr. Kenneth Montague and Elliot Ramsey (Sat, Feb. 3 -- 2-4 p.m. Dalhousie Art Gallery

Artist talk with Allen D. Crooks (Thurs, Feb. 15, 6-7:30 p.m., Dalhousie Art Gallery)


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