Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival today announced that American artist Tyler Mitchell (b. 1995) will be featured in a multi-faceted exhibition titled Cultural Turns that will include work on view at the CONTACT Gallery May 1 – June 30, 2022, as well as outdoor public installations at Toronto’s Metro Hall and on two downtown billboards. The project represents the artist’s first solo exhibition in Canada and his first public installation work.
The project is organized by British curator and cultural historian Mark Sealy, PhD OBE, director of Autograph ABP, the Association of Black Photographers in London.
Mitchell is an American photographer who takes storytelling to uncharted territory with his work in fashion, documentary, and art photography, as well as film projects that include autobiographical topics and themes of identity. Mitchell refers to his practice as a “Black utopic vision, presenting these images in which the young Black men and women around me look dignified, are presented as a community, and also ask the tough questions in terms of what are the things we’ve been historically denied?”
Cultural Turns features a selection of 17 recent and new works by Mitchell at the CONTACT Gallery including Connective Tissue (2021), Tangled (2021), and Vastness (2021) presented as a 7.5 x 13 foot photo mural. Mitchell’s first major outdoor installation will feature a selection of his editorial, commercial, and art photography in 13 large-scale street-level panels on view at nearby Metro Hall. Mitchell’s work will also be presented on billboards for the first time in his career and feature Untitled (Sloane and Leo Embrace) (2019) and Untitled (Eyelash) (2019) at the Dovercourt and Dupont Street intersection in downtown Toronto. Cultural Turns reflects the range of emotions and situations that Mitchell captures in his portraits of Black people in the pastoral American south and the continuation of Mitchell’s exploration of situating a Black utopia in the everyday.
Executive Director Darcy Killeen said, “The CONTACT Gallery has chosen to highlight Tyler Mitchell’s exceptional vision and the power of his oeuvre. He is an integral member of a new generation of image-makers reshaping the lens through which we see culture right now.”
Mitchell made history by photographing Beyoncé for Vogue’s September 2018 cover-the first Black person to shoot a cover in the magazine’s 129-year history-an image that now sits in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution. Mitchell also photographed U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the cover of Vanity Fair in December 2020 and created the controversial portrait of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris for Vogue’s February 2022 issue. Mitchell has photographed fashion campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Nike, Converse, and Givenchy, among others. His work has recently been exhibited at the Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam; The Gordon Parks Foundation, Pleasantville, NY; and International Center of Photography, New York.
According to Dr. Sealy, “Tyler Mitchell’s images arrest the past. They resonate with history and call forth new ways of being. As photographs, they demand political and cultural turns that make it possible for us to see, imagine, and dream of everyday utopias and places where hypervigilance and the epidermal schemas of this world are no more. This exhibition aims to function as a visual gift that encourages its audiences to sweep away all they may have inherited from photography’s grey and guarded old world. Here in the sharing of these images, we can collectively, as human subjects, feel the warmth of a new visual dawn. Within Mitchell’s world, Black bodies resonate with sensual warmth.”
Killeen said, “We are delighted to welcome Tyler Mitchell and Mark Sealy to our city and to the 2022 Festival. CONTACT offers an opportunity to view work by a diversity of acclaimed and emerging artists and curators, documentary photographers, and photojournalists in locations across the Greater Toronto Area.”