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 is a Getty scholar and a Terra Foundation and Smithsonian Museum fellow. In 2018, he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. A former Chair and current professor of art at Scripps College, Gonzales-Day’s exhaustive research and book "Lynching in the West, 1850-1935" led to a re-evaluation of the history of lynching in this country. The book shed light on the little-known history of frontier justice and vigilantism and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The Erased Lynchings series of photographs was a product of this research, which revealed that race was a contributing factor in California's own history of lynching and vigilantism, and through which he discovered that the majority of victims were Mexican or, like him, Mexican-American. Gonzales-Day takes the same scholarly approach to his ongoing Profiled series, which looks to the depiction of race and the construction of whiteness in the representation of the human form as points of departure from which to consider the evolution and transformation of Enlightenment ideas about beauty, class, freedom, and progress. The series was awarded the first P.A.C. Prize (Photo Arts Council) by LACMA and documented in a handsome monograph. It is Gonzales-Day’s continual engagement with history and his interest in peeling back the layers that makes his work so powerful and continuously relevant.
Prominent Collections include: Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, FL; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University; Eileen Norton Harris Foundation; 21C Museum, Louisville, KY; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, NH; Williamson Gallery, Scripps College; L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Pomona College Museum of Art; and City of Los Angeles; Metropolitan Transit Authority, Los Angeles.
“Citizenship acknowledges the political power of images,” [curator Georgia Erger] said, “and the power that comes from the fact that photos, and graphics and ultimately video and film can be so widely and easily disseminated, and therefore, much more accessible.” The works of art include 20th-century photographs by Leonard Freed, a series of etchings by Francisco de Goya, and engravings by William Hogarth, along with “Erased Lynchings,” which Mr. Gonzales-Day produced from 2006 to 2019. Based on actual postcards, and his visits to where lynchings took place, Mr. Gonzales-Day’s work shows crowds gathered at places across America, such as California and Montana, to watch the hangings.
Drawing its title from my Pulitzer Prize-nominatated book of the same name, Lynchings in the West: 1850-1935, this series considers the transracial nature of lynching in California, from statehood to the last recorded lynchings in 1935, as well as other western states and territories outside the historically better-known Southern black lynching areas. Given the broad number of people touched by this history ( Asians, Anglos, Blacks and American Indians), many will be suprised to learn that Latinos (Mexican, Mexican- American, and persons of Latin American descent) were statistically more likely to die of lynching than those of African, Asian or European descent.
While researching Latino portraiture from the 1800s, the photographer Ken Gonzales-Day found an image of a young Latino man. "Last man hanged in Los Angeles," was written on the back. When he read that phrase, Gonzales-Day came to the conclusion that he didn't have a clear understanding of California history. To make sense of his discovery, he began to work on the series of photographs that's now known as "Erased Lynching" (2006). The Santa Clara University Art Department's exhibit "Ken Gonzales-Day" features several of his photographs from the collection.
Santa Clara University (SCU), a flag bearer in an ongoing crusade for social justice, regularly raises awareness of social issues through the arts. A free exhibition of 25 Erased Lynching and California Hang Tree photos by Los Angeles-based artist Ken Gonzales-Day is on view through Jan. 24 in the Gallery of the Art and Art History building.
“Ken Gonzales-Day is an artist who makes work as an act of compassion,” said exhibition curator Renee Billingslea, a senior lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History.
El Museo del Barrio, the NYC museum dedicated to Latinx, Caribbean, and Latin American culture turns 50 years old this year. Frieze New York, the biggest week of the year for art in New York, kicks off on Thursday, and it won't overlook the milestone of the institution, which was founded in 1969, when Latino artists were largely overlooked by mainstream museums.
Another themed section of the fair turns a spotlight on contemporary and modern Latin artists. Taking cue from the legendary performance artist Ana Mendieta, Diálagos presents works from artists whose practice includes a bold sense of color, pageantry and performance, alongside a highly politicized examination of identity. Ken Gonzales-Day explores, through various media, the material legacies of identity-based oppressions, casting an unflinching eye over histories of slavery, colonialism, gender-normativity and other systemic evils.
A panel of nationally recognized curators, local arts professionals and community members from the Purple Line Extension Section 1 area has selected artists to create site-specific, integrated artworks for Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega Stations. The diverse range of accomplished artists includes: Ken Gonzales-Day, Todd Gray, Karl Haendel, Soo Kim, Eamon Ore-Giron, Fran Siegel, Susan Silton, and Mark Dean Veca.
Having seen two exhibitions of James Allen's collected photographs of lynchings — both of them in New York, in 2000—I braced myself for The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America, at Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. The horrific images I saw 18 years ago are permanently seared into my mind.I was curious how this new exhibition of works by prominent contemporary artists would treat such an appallingly inhumane period in American history and its reverberations today.
“This painting stopped me in my tracks,” wrote Katherine White, a Fairfax resident and community organizer at Network NoVA, on her Facebook as she shared it with the public and created some conversations. I decided to reach out to the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and ask them why and how: Curator of painting and sculpture & Latino art and history at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Taína Caragol, said to Fairfax times: “I co-curated UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar with Dr. Asma Naeem, as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary program.
In 2016, poet and author Claudia Rankine received $625,000 as a stipend from her MacArthur Genius Grant and decided to put the funds toward founding The Racial Imaginary Institute, an organization that gives artists and writers a platform to address issues of race. This summer, the Institute has found its new home at The Kitchen in New York, through a series of programs surrounding the exhibition On Whiteness, incorporating a day long symposium, a library of books, residencies, and performances.