Ken Gonzales-Day, The Wonder Gaze (St. James Park), 2006; printed 2023
Erased Lynching Series, 2002-present, Edition 1 of 5
Archival ink on Cason Platine Fibre Rag paper (310g/m2)
40 x 80.26 in (101.6 x 203.9 cm) image

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is proud to announce the Museum of Modern Art’s accession of The Wonder Gaze (St. James Park), 2006, by Ken Gonzales-Day, into the permanent collection. The gallery extends its most sincere thanks to David Berten, Esq, Chicago, Roxana Marcoci, David Dechman Senior Curator of Photography, and Ken Gonzales-Day for making this acquisition possible—along with Marion Tandé, Manager of the Robert B. Menschel Department of Photography, and their entire team at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Wonder Gaze (St. James Park) is one of the most recognized photographic works by Ken Gonzales-Day. It depicts the lynching of Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes in St. James Park, San Jose, CA, in 1933. It is part of the Erased Lynchings series (2002-ongoing), which began with a focus on the history of lynching in California and has brought new scholarship and awareness to the history of lynching nationwide. The research specifically expanded the number of known cases in California, and the work now includes the lynching of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and Jews, in the American West and nationwide.

The imagery in the initial series derived from appropriated lynching postcards and other archival source materials from which Gonzales-Day meticulously removed victims and ropes. This conceptual gesture redirects the viewer’s attention away from the lifeless body of the victim and towards the mechanisms of lynching and spectacle, the formal aspects of lynching photography, including the role of the photographer and the impact of flash photography, and finally towards the crowd, a document of active and passive participants in each lynching.

As an artistic gesture, these absences or empty spaces become emblematic of a forgotten history—made all the more palpable in light of our expanding understanding of America’s history of lynching. The project is documented in Gonzales-Day’s first monograph, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 (Duke University Press, 2006).

Ken Gonzales-Day’s interdisciplinary and conceptually grounded photographic projects consider the history of photography, the construction of race, and the limits of representational systems. Gonzales-Day has received awards from the California Community Foundation, COLA, Creative Capital, and Art Matters. Fellowships include The Rockefeller foundation in Bellagio, Italy; The Terra Foundation in Giverny; The Getty GRI; Smithsonian SARF and SAAM fellowships; and the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography in 2017. Gonzales-Day holds the Fletcher Jones Chair in Art at Scripps College. In 2018, he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. His exhaustive research and book Lynching in the West, 1850-1935 (Duke Univ. Press, 2006) led to a re-evaluation of the history of lynching in the U.S. The book shed light on the little-known history of frontier justice and vigilantism.

Gonzales-Day’s work can be found in prominent collections, including: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, FL; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA; George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; The Block Museum, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, CA; Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Musee National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, Claremont, CA; Eileen Norton Harris Foundation, Los Angeles; 21C Museum Hotel, Louisville, KY; City of Los Angeles; and Metropolitan Transit Authority, Los Angeles, among others.

Ken Gonzales-Day was born 1964 in Santa Clara, CA. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) began collecting modern photography in 1930 and established the department in 1940. The Museum’s holdings of more than 25,000 works constitute one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary photography in the world. As diverse as photography itself, the collection includes work not only by artists, but also by journalists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and amateurs.

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