Perhaps Florida in the 21st Century can become another fertile territory for African-American art production and dissemination. For quiet Palm Beach County, the Norton offers up some enviable programming. On January 16, there's a gallery talk on the topic of photographer Gordon Parks' version of American Gothic, and on January 20, Ringgold speaks.
But the big draw will be the Norton's next opening — by celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz. The museum acquired 39 images from the power photographer, whose own harrowing career exploits are as risky and daring as some of her celebrated photo shoots for American Express, Disney, and Vanity Fair magazine.
Some of the works, like this from Faith Ringgold, narrate the experiences of black women.
Since the start of her career in the 1970s at Rolling Stone magazine, Leibovitz has chronicled American culture heroes in brash ways that emphasize their idiosyncrasies, their vulnerability, and their sexuality — she gave celebrity a whole new look. Portraits of icons like Tom Cruise, Patti Smith, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Brad Pitt, the Reverend Al Sharpton, L'il Kim, and Sean Combs captured the confidence of the '90s and 2000s with bold colors and dramatic lighting.
Leibovitz's personal financial career experienced a catastrophic nosedive as her star ascended and she overspent on lavish photo shoots, travel, and ill-advised real estate investments. With retrospectives at the Brooklyn Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, a long relationship with cultural critic Susan Sontag, and a saga of financial crisis that involves figures of more than $20 million, this is a photographer's life and work that is like no other. The Annie Leibovitz show opens January 17.