Pictures at an Exhibition

‘Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex’ at Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee

Chandra McCormick, Waiting for the Bull, Men Waiting to Participate in the Angola Rodeo, 2013, gelatin silver print. ©CHANDRA MCCORMICK/COURTESY THE ARTIST

Chandra McCormick, Waiting for the Bull, Men Waiting to Participate in the Angola Rodeo, 2013, gelatin silver print.

©CHANDRA MCCORMICK/COURTESY THE ARTIST

Pictures at an Exhibition presents images of one notable show every weekday.

Today’s show: “Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex: Photographs by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick” is on view at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, through Saturday, May 28. The two-person exhibition presents photographs by the husband-and-wife team, who have, since 1980, documented the lives on inmates—from their cells and furlough visits to their work in fields and participation in the prison’s rodeo—at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the largest maximum-security prison in the country.

An excerpt from the press release:

Calhoun and McCormick have been documenting African American life in Louisiana for more than 30 years. Since 1980, they have made regular visits to Angola, which was founded on the consolidated land of several cotton and sugarcane plantations and named for the country of origin for many of the enslaved people who had worked the land.

Angola is also called “The Farm” because it continues to grow cash crops—as much as four million pounds a year—using inmate labor. “In the minds of Calhoun and McCormick, slavery never really ended at Angola,” says [Frist Art Museum] curator Katie Delmez. “As first-hand witnesses to exploitative labor practices, they use their cameras as tools for social engagement, reminding their audiences of persistent racial inequities, especially throughout the American criminal justice system.”

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