Carrie Mae Weems at Jack Shainman Gallery

Art Scene

Carrie Mae Weems at Jack Shainman Gallery

Carrie Mae Weems’ legend as a photographer and video artist was solidified in 2013 when she received a MacArthur Genius Grant, and again in 2014 with a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. Now, in her first solo exhibition in New York City since those epic accomplishments, the artist is once again unleashing thoughtful commentary on social issues through both text and image.


Presented by Jack Shainman Gallery, Weems’ self-titled exhibition spans two locations and includes two series of new work: Scenes and Take, and All the Boys, both created in 2016, as well as images from the series Blue Notes (2014) and the video installation, Lincoln, Lonnie and Me (2012).

Scenes and Take, a group of nine works featuring a color photograph with accompanying text printed on canvas, explores the current landscape of network television. Despite a shift toward paid television programming, extremely successful shows are appearing on traditional free television stations likes ABC and FOX. Inserting herself as the lone figure in images of empty stage sets that reference shows like Empire, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, Weems’ contemplative poses encourage viewers to also ponder what’s at play in her images.


The text featured on some of the works appears to resemble screenplay or television script scene excerpts. Some specifically reference high-profile television producer Shonda Rhimes and her growing stature as a dominant force in Hollywood with blockbuster shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.

Producer Lee Daniels’ music industry-based drama Empire, reminiscent of 1980s hits like Dallas and Dynasty, is also highlighted in one work with a bold blinged out sign hanging above an empty stage. Just like in all the works, Weems stands with her back to viewers in a long fluid black dress. In this particular image, she stands with her right hip tilted upward in a relaxed, alluring pose that almost feels as if she has paused in the middle of a burlesque dancer’s solo rehearsal.


Weems’ All the Boys series, also populated by text and image based work, pairs images of recently slain young African American men, like Trayvon Martin, with partially blacked out text that resembles police reports. The photographs often feature a red rectangle that obscures the face of the young men on view, referencing Weems’ aesthetic style in her Blue Notes series, which explores how people live behind color and racial identity.




Overall, both Scenes and Takes and All the Boys explore ideas and processes of identity construction, perception, fiction and truth. The work does not offer easy comprehension, but rather a powerful and somewhat mysterious introduction to the complexities of identity and opportunity in contemporary culture. Carrie Mae Weems is on display at Jack Shainman Gallery through December 10, 2016.

Photos by Anders Jones