Read More UMBC News Blog Stories

January 7, 2002

Fine Arts Gallery exhibits Casting Shadows: Photographs by Edward West

ArtistonUMBC's Fine Arts Gallery presents Casting Shadows: Photographs by Edward West, organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the artist. The exhibition will be on view from February 8 through March 16, 2002. An opening reception will be held on February 7 from 5 to 7 p.m.; a Gallery Talk with Edward West will be held on February 28th from 7:30 - 9:00 p.m.

More than twenty-five years ago, photographer Edward West attended a play, Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, by South African playwright Athol Fugard. Set in a photographer's studio, the play examined the harsh realities faced by black South Africans under the system of apartheid. It galvanized West's interest in the country and its people, an interest that was made manifest when, following the dismantling of that repressive regime, West traveled to South Africa. There he created Casting Shadows, a remarkable body of work depicting the daily lives of black South Africans during this period of societal transformation. A person of mixed race himself, West photographed in the country's communities of color-townships, squatter camps and other locations.

As the exhibition's title suggests, shadow is used within the images as a metaphor for the shifting visibility of the black population during this period of political and cultural change. Shot with high-speed film and digitally printed on drawing paper, the images have a rich pointillist texture and the depth of ink on paper. Formally, they blend the authenticity of full-frame street photography with a reductivist aesthetic. In their narrative, they reveal the subtle power of everyday activities to illuminate a moment in the culture's transformation. Within the shallow stage of the picture plane, the viewer enters a space in which people, place, and shadow each play a seminal role.

The shadow is itself an animate and sometimes mythic presence with the power to both define and obscure. The metaphor of the shadow extends well into the country's history. "For example," West explains, "Soweto is nicknamed the Shadow City, referring pejoratively to its exclusively black population, while reinforcing the concept that blacks are seen as shadows of the white minority."

BendinephyphoWest's interest in South Africa is multifaceted and his participation with the communities he photographed helped him gain the confidence of the inhabitants, bringing greater authenticity to his portrayals. West taught photography classes in the townships and urban areas, and he continues to work to improve the lives of the people in those locations. "I came to South Africa, acknowledging that I was an outsider," West remarked. "Without a respectful commitment to the people in the community, my presence would rightly be seen as an intrusion into lives already scarred by governmental policy. In contrast to those who came to the country and saw the polarities of black and white, I saw a country rich in variation. And so my choice to photograph in color is in recognition of a South Africa that is multi-hued, multi-faceted." West's interest in portraying the rich polyglot nature of South African society is also captured in the titles of the works, which utilize four of the country's eleven official languages.

About Edward West
Edward West, an associate professor in the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, has had his work shown, collected, and published internationally by such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, Polaroid Corporation, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, WIDE Gallery, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the San Francisco Art Institute. His recent exhibitions include shows at the Smithsonian Institution and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

About the Fine Arts Gallery
The Fine Arts Gallery is a non-profit gallery space dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art. The Fine Arts Gallery serves as a unique center for students, faculty, and the general public in the visualization and discussion of important philosophical and aesthetic issues of the day. Disciplines represented include painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, imaging and digital arts, video, film, installation and performance.

Since 1989, the Fine Arts Gallery has incorporated a number of public programs into its exhibition programming schedule to further impact the communities it serves. Symposia, lecture series, conferences, film series, visiting artist series, and residencies have all been fundamental in an effort to create an ongoing dialogue about contemporary art and culture. The Fine Arts Gallery has also initiated a number of projects with Baltimore and surrounding schools systems to integrate the contemporary artist and their concerns into the classroom. These projects take place on-site at both middle schools and high schools and are team taught by the instructors at these schools, professional artists, and students from the Fine Arts Gallery's Internship Program.

HlalaCurrently the Fine Arts Gallery produces one to two exhibition catalogues each year. Each document is fully illustrated and contains critical essays on the given subject by a variety of distinguished professionals in the field. With the printing of Minimal Politics: Performativity and Minimalism in Recent American Art in 1997, the Fine Arts Gallery inaugurated a new series of publications entitled Issues in Cultural Theory. These catalogues are published yearly and are distributed internationally through Distributed Publishers in New York.

Since 1992, the Fine Arts Gallery has actively pursued the organization of exhibitions which contain the aesthetic, theoretical, and educational potential to reach both a national and international audience. Over the years, the Fine Arts Gallery has traveled these exhibition projects to a broad spectrum of museums, professional non-profit galleries, and universities national and internationally. These traveling exhibitions include:

  • Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations (2001)
  • Adrian Piper: A Retrospective (1999)
  • Bruno Monguzzi: A Designer's Perspective (1998)
  • Minimal Politics (1997)
  • Kate Millet, Sculpture: The First 38 Years (1997)
  • Layers: Contemporary Collage from St. Petersburg, Russia (1995/96)
  • Notes In Time: Leon Golub and Nancy Spero (1995)
  • Ciphers of Identity (1994)
  • Nancy Graves: Recent Works (1993)
  • Environmental Terror (1992)

Beyond the scope of these traveling exhibitions, the Fine Arts Gallery also undertakes an exhibition schedule that includes a Faculty Biennial, Views from Baltimore to Washington, which focuses on contemporary forms and media by regional artists, and projects such as the Joseph Beuys Tree Partnership. As part of the educational mission of the Fine Arts Gallery one graduate thesis exhibition and one undergraduate senior exhibition are scheduled on a yearly basis.

This multi-faceted focus for presenting exhibitions, projects and scholarly research publications focused on contemporary art and cultural issues positions the Fine Arts Gallery in a unique position within the mid-Atlantic region.

Admission to the Gallery is free.

DyamalaHours of Operation
Sunday: closed
Monday: closed
Tuesday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Telephone and web
General Gallery information: (410) 455-3188
UMBC Artsline (24 hour recorded message): (410) 455-ARTS
Media inquiries only: (410) 455-3370

UMBC Arts website:
UMBC News Releases:
Fine Arts Gallery website:

From Baltimore and points north, proceed south on I-95 to exit 47B. Take Route 166 toward Catonsville and then follow signs to the Fine Arts Building.

From I-695, take Exit 12C (Wilkens Avenue) and continue one-half mile to the entrance of UMBC at the roundabout intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Hilltop Road. Turn left and follow signs to the Fine Arts Building.

From Washington and points south, proceed north on I-95 to Exit 47B. Take Route 166 toward Catonsville and then follow signs to the Fine Arts Building.

Daytime metered visitor parking is available in Lot 10, near the Administration Building. Visitor parking regulations are enforced on all University calendar days. Hilltop Circle and all campus roadways require a parking permit unless otherwise marked.

Online campus map:

LindileImages for Media
High resolution images for media are available online:
or by email or postal mail.

UMBC appreciates the contribution of Carole McNamara, Assistant Director for Collections and Exhibitions at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, who wrote the essay that appears at the beginning of this press release.

# # #

Posted by dwinds1 at January 7, 2002 12:00 AM