Exposures of Truth:
Richard Avedon and Gordon Parks

Andy Grundberg and Deborah Willis with Wanda Corn

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | 7:30 - 9:00pm | Kresge Auditorium | Free and Open to All

Presented with Cantor Arts Center

The Aurora Forum hosts this unique conversation on the photographic work of Richard Avedon (1923–2004) and Gordon Parks (1912–2006) with art critics Andy Grundberg, Deborah Willis, and Wanda Corn.

Both Avedon and Parks were high school dropouts who received prestigious honorary degrees. Both effectively used their cameras in the struggle for civil rights, and each captured conflicting American identities while moving with ease between haute couture and the street. When Avedon died, he was working on a series entitled “Democracy” for The New Yorker. When Parks died, he was working on yet another volume of his own poetry with accompanying photographs.

This conversation coincides with and elucidates overlapping exhibitions of the work of these two great American artists at the Cantor Arts Center: In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon is on display February 14–May 6, and Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks is open March 21–July 1. Viewed together, these exhibitions illuminate the skill and daring of two iconoclastic American artists with tremendous range and regard for aesthetic truth.

For more on these exhibitions, visit the Cantor Arts Center website.


Andy Grundberg is a critic, curator and educator who has written about photography and art for more than twenty-five years, including ten years as a critic for The New York Times. A collection of his essays on photography, Crisis of the Real, received a 1999 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York. From 1992 to 1996, he directed the Friends of Photography in San Francisco, where he ran the Ansel Adams Center for Photography and served as editor and publisher of see: A Journal of Visual Culture. In his ongoing role as curator, he prepared In Response to Place, an exhibition for The Nature Conservancy. He continues to write and teach at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC where he makes his home.

Photographer Deborah Willis, winner of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, is a leading scholar in the investigation and recovery of the rich legacy of African American photography. Her dual career as art photographer and professor of the history of photography at New York University includes curatorships at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture and the Smithsonian Institution's Center for African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Her own work has been exhibited widely, including a solo exhibition at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. She is the author of, among other books, the widely acclaimed Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present.

WANDA CORN (moderator)
Wanda M. Corn is among the most respected and well-published scholars of American art. Educated at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, she became the first permanent appointment in the history of American art at Stanford in 1980. In 2000, she was awarded the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art for her book, The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935. She is currently working on an exhibition on Gertrude Stein and the American avant-garde, and she is completing a book about Mary Cassatt and the decorative program of murals and sculptures for the Woman's Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She was a Radcliffe Institute Fellow in 2003-2004 and is currently a Senior Fellow at The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

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