Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very pleased to announce the accession of six photographs by Ken Gonzales-Day (American, 1964) into the collection of The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. This significant group of works includes three photographs from the Searching for California Hang Trees series and three photographs from the Memento Mori series. The works were chosen by Paul Martineau, Curator of Photographs and Karen Hellman, Assistant Curator of Photographs, and made possible through the support of Dr. Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director and the J. Paul Getty Trust. The gallery offers its sincere thanks to all.
Searching for California's Hang Trees (2000 – ongoing) grew out of Ken Gonzales-Day's research into the history of lynching in California and continues to build the most comprehensive record of lynching in California. Searching for California's Hang Trees serves as a physical testimony to Gonzales-Day’s research visits to over 300 alleged lynching sites in California. Exclusively employing an antique Deardorff large format camera, the artist engages with the history of landscape photography in California and recalls the legacies of violence associated with US colonialism and Manifest Destiny. Gonzales-Day spent several years researching in local archives and scanning microfilm while making multiple expeditions across the state looking for clues to the little-known history. Though ambitious in scope, the artist places great importance in searching for and finding as many of these sites as possible in order to bear belated historical witness to these locations and contemplate what they represent. The research and records for over 353 cases documented by Gonzales-Day is in no way complete, but has become the most complete list of cases published to date.
The Memento Mori series was one of three photographic projects that grew out of Gonzales-Day's research into the history of lynching for his first monograph, Lynching in the West, 1850-1935 (Duke University Press, 2006). The series began during his research of racial profiling in California and looking for new ways to represent a history of radicalized violence that had largely been forgotten. Through his research he was able to reveal, for the first time, that race was a factor in the history of lynching in California which, even up to that time, had been regularly mischaracterized by historians as part of a race-neutral fantasy of white on white violence, which existed as well.
Because BIPOC and Latinx bodies figured so prominently in this history, Gonzales-Day photographed a range of models from different groups and was also struck by the fact that so many of the lynching victims were described as being young men. The Memento Mori portraits were an essential part of a larger strategy to use his artistic practice to raise awareness and create a visual language to address the history of radicalized violence in California.
Ken Gonzales-Day's work is included in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, FL; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, NH; Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, CA; Pomona College Museum of Art, Pomona, 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; 21C Museum Hotel, Louisville, KY; Eileen Norton Harris Foundation; CA; City of Los Angeles; Metropolitan Transit Authority, Los Angeles, among others.