Entitled Profiled | Hang Trees | Portraits, the exhibition brings together three inter-related yet very different projects for the first time. The exhibition begins with a selection from his Searching for California Hang Trees series, which has been featured in a number of exhibitions and publications including the Generali Foundation's Exile of the Imaginary, LACMA's Phantom Sightings, Spy Numbers at the Palais de Tokyo, and will be included in Our America, an upcoming exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution. These beautiful, sometimes haunting, images of the California landscape disrupt conventional readings of landscape photography through their depiction of sites that were part of California's little known history of lynching.
The exhibition will also include a small selection of contemporary portraits of Latino men, taken in connection with Gonzales-Day's own research, which revealed that Latino men were disproportionately targeted by California's lynch mobs in the 19th century and early 20th century. Lastly, and generated in direct response to the challenges of representing such complex and troubling histories, the exhibition will conclude with a selection of images from Gonzales-Day's recent LACMA Photo Arts Council (PAC) Prizeaward-winning monograph, Profiled. With this project, once-living subjects have been replaced with their sculptural doubles to create a new critical space from which to consider not only the objects portrayed, but the sometimes curious histories which brought them into being.
Profiled assembles depictions of race and difference drawn from the sculpture and portrait bust collections of museums in Europe, North and South America, and Asia, including The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Field Museum, L'École des Beaux-Arts, The Bode Museum, and Sanssouci Palace, among others. This ongoing project is as an exploration of the influence of eighteenth century "scientific" thought on twenty-first century institutions ranging from the prison to the museum, andreveals the emergence of "whiteness" as an aesthetic canon that dates from that period and continues into the present. Profiled is not a history of sculpture—rather, it is a conceptual clustering of cultural artifacts arranged to foreground the emergence, idealization and even the folly of race. As such, Profiled strives to create a new context from which to consider these sometimes-ambiguous objects.
As the Pulitzer prize winning art critic Mark Feneeny has written: "What Gonzales-Day records is a much larger form of racial profiling, though, than the sort practiced by law-enforcement personnel. For centuries, Western art has operated under a certain set of assumptions about what did, and did not, constitute beauty. Those assumptions simultaneously shaped and reflected even larger assumptions about human value. The fact that the classically-inspired statuary was considered art, while renderings of African, Native American, and other non-Western people were assigned to the category of anthropology, speaks volumes. Seeing two such images juxtaposed within the same frame is to witness a cross-cultural dialogue all the more eloquent for its silence."