Close Read is a group exhibition featuring new work by three Baltimore-based photographers: Akea Brionne Brown, Shan Wallace and Savannah Wood. Each artist has spent time conducting research in the historic AFRO American Newspapers’ archives, and has created new work inspired by their findings. The exhibition is scheduled to open this August at Baltimore’s Connect + Collect Gallery, which is sited in the former AFRO headquarters.
The AFRO American Newspaper was founded in Baltimore in 1892 by John H. Murphy, Sr., a former slave who earned his freedom by fighting for the Union army during the Civil War. Over the ensuing 127 years, the AFRO has been continuously published by the same family, and has maintained their archives for internal and scholarly use. This exhibition will mark the first time that artists have been given unfettered access to work with this collection.
Each of the artists in this show has approached their research through their particular interests, creating work that complements their individual practices. Brown looks deeply at internal documents and published articles that cover a long legacy of Black entrepreneurship and segregation; Wallace explores adornment, style and self-determination through photo collage that incorporates both archival images and her own photographs; and Wood, a descendent of John H. Murphy, Sr., follows a genealogical trail, connecting the business’s roots back to a former plantation in Montgomery County.
The work in the show includes sculpture, original photography and animated collage, all highlighting different artistic approaches to archival research, with Baltimore’s Black communities as a common thread.
An important feature of this exhibition will be the projection of archival images and select artwork onto the gallery’s street-facing windows, providing an opportunity for everyday Baltimoreans — passersby and neighbors — to encounter pieces of the archive and work from the exhibition by chance.
Funded by Baltimore, MD (April 2020)