LACMA: Acquires Run Up and Untitled (After Hale Woodruff, Giddap, 1935)

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very pleased to announce the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s acquisition of two works by Ken Gonzales-Day: Run Up, 2002, a photograph from the Searching for California’s Hang Trees series, and Untitled (After Hale Woodruff, Giddap, 1935), 2021, from the Anti-Lynching Drawings (with Figures Removed) series

The gallery extends its most sincere thanks to Eve Schillo, Assistant Curator of the Wallace Annenberg Photography Department, and the LACMA Development team for helping to make this acquisition possible, along with Paula Ely and Cesar Rueda for their generous contribution.

The series Searching for California’s Hang Trees began in 2002 and grew out of Ken Gonzales-Day’s research into the history of lynching in California. The artist began the research on lynching in California by assembling the most complete record of lynching in the state that had been published up to that time. It was included in his Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 (Duke, 2006), which documents over 350 cases of lynching across the territory. Gonzales-Day was particularly interested in documenting how nineteenth-century conceptions of difference had obscured the fact that, like African Americans in the South, Native Americans, Latinos, Chinese, and African Americans, had been targeted and lynched in California and the west, at least in part, because of their racial identities. He also documented cases involving persons of European descent.

Part documentary, and part an act of witnessing, the photos were taken in the city, county and approximate, if not exact, location where the events occurred as many of the locations were deliberately not recorded. Some of the locations were handed down in local lore, or written in personal accounts, in some cases leading him to an old jailhouse and a ghost town. Gonzales-Day included every case that he could uncover.

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (After Hale Woodruff, Giddap, 1935), 2021
Anti-Lynching Drawings (with Figures Removed) series
Archival ink and pencil on Arches BFK Rives

We are also grateful to Brit Salveson, Curator and Head of the Wallace Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings Department, for the acquisition of Untitled (After Hale Woodruff, Giddap, 1935), 2021.

Ken Gonzales-Day created the Anti-Lynching Drawings (with Figures Removed) series for his solo exhibition, Another Land, in 2022. The images are derived from a collection of original paintings, drawings and prints presented in the first exhibition on lynching in the United States entitled, An Art Commentary on Lynching, held in New York City in early 1935. Among the artists who participated in the exhibition and joined the fight to raise awareness of racial violence and persuade Congress to pass anti-lynching legislation were George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Julius Bloch, Samuel Brown, Paul Cadmus, Elmer Simms Campbell, John Steuart Curry, Edmund Duffy, Wilmer Jennings, Reginald Marsh, William Mosby, Isamu Noguchi, José Clemente Orozco, Harry Sternberg, Prentiss Taylor, and Halle Woodruff, among others.

The artwork is a creative and critical intervention into the Smithsonian’s Journal of the Archives of American Art and is directly informed by his ongoing Erased Lynching series, in which he re-photographs and manipulates historic lynching images and postcards. In creating a series of drawings inspired by these historic works, the artist made the decision to remove all of the lynching victims and the ropes from the images – a conceptual strategy that he established in his acclaimed Erased Lychings photographic series (2006-present). However, in this case, he pushes it even farther by removing any depictions of the individuals in the lynch mob as a way of drawing our attention to the natural and built world as rendered through the original artist’s hand, while carefully recreating the characteristics and traits of the original works. The result of stripping these scenes of all humanity are haunting landscapes that pulse with visceral absence and, as American author Erskine Caldwell noted in his essay for An Art Commentary on Lynching, “all trace of progress and civilization.”

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

Gonzales-Day’s work can be found in prominent collections, including: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; 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; North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; 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.

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