Southbound-Photographs of and about the New South
September 6-December 29, 2019
In conjunction with the Power Plant Gallery in Durham, American Tobacco Campus
What comes to mind when one envisions “the South?” Depending on perspective, time frame, and the individual, the answers to this question can quickly become complicated.
NC State’s Gregg Museum and Duke’s Power Plant Gallery have joined forces to show Southbound—Photographs of and about the New South, a joint mega-exhibition that seeks to reveal the South through the lenses of fifty-five contemporary photographers. Chosen by Mark Sloan and Mark Long of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, SC, Southbound presents places and images they saw as indelibly and irrefutably “Southern.”
Guest curator Randall Kenan, UNC literature professor and author of A Visitation of Spirits and Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, then further refined the selections into two interrelated installations: the Power Plant Gallery in downtown Durham presents a selection Kenan calls Flux, while the Gregg Museum at NC State presents Home.
The South has been transformed multiple times over through war, historical events, cultural shifts, economic upheavals, and the shattering of social norms. Beginning with the economic issues of slavery and industrialization and moving through Reconstruction, civil rights, reinvention and rebirth, the South has long represented a way of life that is by turns puzzling, fascinating, horrifying, and comforting. It has also been the inspiration for many artists, especially photographers.
The lifestyles and daily experiences revealed through the photographs in Southbound serve to remind the viewer that the response to what is seen relies as much on personal interpretation as it does on personal definition. Beauty and ugliness, drama and dignity are all held up for contemplation in these images. The exhibition questions and refutes the typical understanding of what it means to live in the South, explores what it means to be Southern, reveals new images of undiscovered aspects, and examines the tensions in a region that continues to change and evolve.
The Southbound catalogue was awarded the 2019 Alice Award by Furthermore grants in publishing, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.