Deana Lawson (b. 1979, Rochester, New York) makes photographs that explore the black familiar and its relationship to lore, global histories, and mystery traditions. She transforms observational picture-making into a powerful mode of expression, critique, and celebration. Romance and intimacy between subjects, as well as ritual and spirituality appear throughout Lawson’s work, often within the same image. Her photographs emphasize formal approaches to film commonly associated with both Western and African 20th-century portraiture practices, in addition to appropriation and uses of vernacular imagery. Lawson engages her subjects with intention and intuition alike, in staged situations characterized by the piercing directness of the model’s gaze. With their meticulous mise-en-scènes filled with personal artifacts and decor, these portraits underscore the psychological connections between people and their domestic spaces, fusing biography, symbolism, and cultural observation, and creating expansive images of contemporary personhood.
Deana Lawson has been the subject of numerous institutional solo exhibitions, including shows at Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2020); Huis Marseille, Amsterdam (2019); The Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2018); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2017); and the Art Institute of Chicago (2015). Recent group exhibitions include Untitled, 2020, Punta della Dogana, Venice (2020); Emissaries for Things Abandoned by Gods, Estancia Femsa, Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico City (2019); Fragments of a Crucifixion, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2019); Unexpected Encounters, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (2018); Whitney Biennial 2017, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Black Cowboy, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016). Her work is in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; among others. Lawson lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.