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Ken Gonzales-Day with his Erased Lynchings (2000-2020). Credit Andrew Harnik, AP Photo.

Ken Gonzales-Day’s interdisciplinary and conceptually grounded photographic projects consider the history of photography, the construction of race, and the limits of representational systems. Gonzales-Day is a Getty scholar and a Terra Foundation and Smithsonian Museum fellow.  In 2018, he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. A former Chair and current professor of art at Scripps College, Gonzales-Day’s exhaustive research and book Lynching in the West, 1850-1935 (2006) led to a re-evaluation of the history of lynching in this country. The book shed light on the little-known history of frontier justice and vigilantism and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The Erased Lynchings series of photographs was a product of this research, which revealed that race was a contributing factor in California's own history of lynching and vigilantism, and through which he discovered that the majority of victims were Mexican or, like him, Mexican-American. Gonzales-Day takes the same scholarly approach to his ongoing Profiled series, which looks to the depiction of race and the construction of whiteness in the representation of the human form as points of departure from which to consider the evolution and transformation of Enlightenment ideas about beauty, class, freedom, and progress. The series was awarded the first Photo Arts Council Prize (PAC) by LACMA and documented in a handsome monograph. It is Gonzales-Day’s continual engagement with history and his interest in peeling back the layers that makes his work so powerful and continuously relevant.

Gonzales-Day's work can be found in several prominent collections, including: Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, FL; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University; Eileen Norton Harris Foundation; 21C Museum, Louisville, KY; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, NH; Williamson Gallery, Scripps College; L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Pomona College Museum of Art; City of Los Angeles; and Metropolitan Transit Authority, Los Angeles.

Ken Gonzales-Day Aaron, 2005-2013

Ken Gonzales-Day
Aaron, 2005-2013
Lighjet Print on Aluminum
40 x 30 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Anthony, 2005-2013

Ken Gonzales-Day
Anthony, 2005-2013
Lighjet Print on Aluminum
40 x 30 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Gordon, 2005-12

Ken Gonzales-Day
Gordon, 2005-12
LightJet print on aluminum
40 x 30 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day's portraits of contemporay young Latino men are stand-ins for California lynching victims who were often between the ages of 16 and 22.  The men sport contemporary hairstyles, clothing and tattoos. Isolated against dark backgrounds and gaze serenely or defiantly back at the viewer. Just as the artist wanted to experience the lynching sites in his Erased Lynchings and In Search for California Hang Trees series, he wondered what the victims might have looked like. "I was also interested in sharing this history with young Latino men," he says, "telling them about it, seeing what their responses were."

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