SF Camerawork — Charles Lee: Sweat & Dirt

Presented By

SF Camerawork

Through Feb 3rd

SF Camerawork presents Charles Lee: Sweat & Dirt, an exhibition of Lee’s photographic series at Fort Mason Center For Arts & Culture (FMCAC).

Sweat & Dirt is a document and investigation of contemporary Black rodeo culture and cowfolk in the U.S. The show consists of traditional black-and-white photographs, larger-than-life mural prints, and two photo-based installations, one of which further explores the forms and ideas presented in Lee’s installation Been Here at the City of Berkeley’s Cube Space earlier this year.

The works and images in Sweat & Dirt were made in Louisiana, California’s Southern and Central Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Through Lee’s project, we are presented with contemporary evidence by which we can trace the multi-racial history and widespread geographic reach of country life, and the role of Black people in the development of U.S. western culture.

Lee’s images of Black ranchers, trail riders, ropers, equestrians, and animal trainers, in moments of joy and hard at work, help disrupt both the image of the rugged, white male cowboy as an icon of Westward expansion and manifest destiny, and today’s reductive stereotypes of white rurality and black urbanness. According to Lee, “All of this is with the intention to further the discussion about what it truly means to be ‘American.’ In effect, this work shows that we’ve been here. … We are American.”

Sweat & Dirt is on view in SF Camerawork’s gallery space in Building A from Tuesday, November 7, 2023 to Saturday, February 3, 2024. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 12:00 p.m. (Noon) to 6:00 p.m.; Friday, 12:00 p.m. (Noon) to 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The opening reception happened on Friday, November 10, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A free artist talk takes place on the closing day, Saturday, February 3, 2024, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The exhibition conversation includes exhibiting artist Charles Lee, educator Hannah Waiters, and artist and cowboy, Paul Kevin Jacques. (Register in advance.)

About the Artist. Charles Lee (b. 1983, Honolulu) is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, researcher, and storyteller whose work exploits the fissures in the versions of U.S. history that we have been taught. His work confronts the fallacy of U.S. iconography and encourages critical dialogue questioning origins of American myths and the obfuscation of Black cultural creators and innovators from the historical archive, empowers Black viewers with a more accurate depiction of their histories, and encourages the building of future histories. Lee’s stories offer insight into the notion of what it means to be a Black American today. The work rebuilds histories by uncovering truths that have been hidden. By unearthing these narratives, Lee’s work also traces a lineage from deep in the historical past in order to move forward in the future as in the Ghanaian (Akan) principle of Sankofa.

Whether it be film, photography, installation, sculpture, or sound, Lee chooses whichever means of expression he sees fit for the dissemination of a feeling of belonging and identity. He is the recipient of the 2022 Edwin Anthony & Adelaine Boudreaux Cadogan Scholarship and Contemporary Art Award, All College Honors, Graduate Merit Scholarship, the 2021 Pabst Open Door Grant, and is a 2022 Recology Artist in Residence. His work has been exhibited extensively locally at places such as Minnesota Street Project and Southern Exposure, and internationally at 1014 Gallery in London.

About SF Camerawork. SF Camerawork is a long-standing leader in the San Francisco arts milieu, committed to provoking discovery, experimentation, and exchange through exhibitions and experiences for all who value new ideas in photography. The organization was founded in 1974 by a collective of artists who welcomed experimental photography, unconventional techniques, and sociopolitical themes, and who fostered a range of alternative styles and approaches. The essence of the founders’ vision remains at the core of SF Camerawork even as the organization has adapted to the changing scope of photography and surrounding cultural landscape.

For more than 45 years, SF Camerawork has provided a launching pad for many artists’ careers, supplying invaluable financial support, exhibition space, curation, and patronage. In its early years, SF Camerawork was the first organization in the SF Bay Area to host exhibitions and lectures by controversial but ultimately highly influential artists such as Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Susan Meiselas, and Joel-Peter Witkin. More recently, the organization has presented the first West Coast exhibitions for artists including John Chiara, Binh Danh, Erica Deeman, Jennifer Karady, Jason Lazurus, Chris McCaw, Wang Ning De, and Meghann Riepenhoff — artists who have emerged as leaders of a new generation gaining international prominence.

Free Admission

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