The “Red Summer” portfolio represents the stories of various locations in the American landscape where racial violence (often characterized as “Race Wars” at the time) erupted between 1917 and 1923. These years of conflict reveal several aspects of racial anxiety that inform our contemporary experience, including though not limited to racism, fear of violent black revolt, lynching, poverty, mass incarceration, and competition for employment.
The upheaval of Red Summer occurred approximately 50 years after the American Civil War and 50 years before the height of the Civil Rights Era.
The project is a series of large format prints that combine photographs of the contemporary landscape made at or near the site of racial conflict with fragmented selections of contemporaneous newspaper reporting (1917-1923). In many cases, the newsprint images include the surrounding stories or advertisements. The combination of a place and the intrusion of newspaper fragments, usually being reported within a few days of the riots, is a rupture of the timeline (these places are not what they seem), and a conversation between past and present.
The veil (DuBois) has been a visual metaphor for the representation of race within my work for several decades; particularly in the two projects known as, “Schools for the Colored” and “Red Summer”. The newspaper, as a form of public record and commentary, is the veil of information through which most of the country, as well as many in the international community, understood and misunderstood these events.
Wendel A. White was born in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He was awarded a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin.
He has received various awards and fellowships including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography, three artist fellowships from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, and grants from Center Santa Fe (Juror’s Choice), and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
His work is represented in public and private collections including Duke University, the New Jersey State Museum, California Institute for Integral Studies, The Graham Foundation, Chicago, IL; En Foco, New York, NY; Rochester Institute of Technology, NY; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; Haverford College, PA; Johnson and Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ; Chase Manhattan Bank, University of Delaware, University of Alabama, Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, WI; and the NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY.
Recent projects include “Red Summer,” “Manifest,” “Schools for the Colored,” “Village of Peace: An African American Community in Israel,” “Small Towns, Black Lives,” and others.