America in Crisis exploring decades of social change at the Saatchi Gallery

A new exhibition exploring decades of social change in the US through photographs is set to open this month at the Saatchi Gallery.

America in Crisis will bring together 40 leading American photographers and over 120 works form the 1960s up to today.

America in Crisis was a ground-breaking group initiative originally conceived in 1969 to assess the state of the nation.

This Magnum Photos project was led by American photographer Charles Harbutt and Lee Jones, then Magnum’s New York bureau chief.

Rally cultivating change -Sheila Pree Bright

In 1970, Charles Harbutt said of the original project: “Several of us felt that the 1968 elections would be somehow special; that deeper questions for America were riding than just electing a president.

“I felt that the basic issue was that the traditional American self-image as learned through public schools, Hollywood movies, ads and Fourth of July speeches – the American Dream itself – was being challenged.”

The group project turned a critical eye on the U.S at a time of great social, political and cultural change, and examined key events in 1968 leading up to Nixon’s inauguration.

The 2022 exhibition at Saatchi Gallery will create a dialogue between the original historical photographs from the 1969 Magnum project and new works produced five decades later, by diverse contemporary artists, during another tumultuous time in America.

Grant Park Chicago-1968- Charles Harbutt

Despite the proliferation of “fake news” in recent years, the role of photography as a means to record retains more relevancy today than ever before.

America in Crisis explores the similarities and differences between two eras in recent American history through the photographs produced during each pivotal period.

Explored within this exhibition are deeply rooted national debates concerning gun control and racial inequality, as well as topics of global impact such as the digital revolution and the climate crisis.

USA. Alabama. 1965. The Selma March. – Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Revisiting and updating this exhibition creates a unique dialogue between leading photographers from 1968, such as Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt and Mary Ellen Mark, and the works of 2020 contemporaries, such as Kris Graves, Balazs Gardi and Zora J Murff.

The exhibition highlights the themes present in both eras, confronting the myth of American Exceptionalism with the reality of current events.

 


 

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