Skip to content

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 College, 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 Untitled (Pierre-Jean David d’Angers, Bust of Ann Buchan Robinson, Museum of City of New York; Joseph Nollekensm Venus, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Malvina Hoffman, Japanese Woman [337087], The Field Museum, Chicago; Malvina Hoffman, Eskimo Woman [337060]), The Field Museum, Chicago), 2009-2011

Ken Gonzales_Day
Untitled (Pierre-Jean David d’Angers, Bust of Ann Buchan Robinson, Museum of City of New York; Joseph Nollekensm Venus, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Malvina Hoffman, Japanese Woman [337087], The Field Museum, Chicago; Malvina Hoffman, Eskimo Woman [337060]), The Field Museum, Chicago), 2009-2011
LightJet print on aluminum
23 x 61.5 in.
Edition of  3, 2 AP      

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Malvina Hoffman Collection, Kashmiri Man [Prakash Haksar], [337097], The Field Museum, Chicago, IL, 2009-2012

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Malvina Hoffman Collection, Kashmiri Man [Prakash Haksar], [337097], The Field Museum, Chicago, IL, 2009-2012
LightJet print on aluminum
28 x 19.5 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Malvina Hoffman Collection, Mangbetu Woman [337107], The Field Museum, Chicago), 2009-2012

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Malvina Hoffman Collection, Mangbetu Woman [337107], The Field Museum, Chicago), 2009-2012
LightJet print on aluminum
16 x 30 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day America by Hiram Powers; plaster, 1848-50; Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2014 (printed 2017)

Ken Gonzales-Day
America by Hiram Powers; plaster, 1848-50; Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2014 (printed 2017)
Archival ink on rag paper
75 × 40 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP
 

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled: Bust of an African Woman by Henry Weeks; marble, 1859; The J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles and Bust of Mm. Adélaïde Julie Mirleau de Newville, née Garnier d'Isle by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle; marble, 1750s; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled: Bust of an African Woman by Henry Weeks; marble, 1859; The J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles and Bust of Mm. Adélaïde Julie Mirleau de Newville, née Garnier d'Isle by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle; marble, 1750s; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009
Archival ink on rag paper 
32 × 60 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled: The Last of the Tribes by Hiram Powers; marble, 1867-72; Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2014 (printed 2017)

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled: The Last of the Tribes by Hiram Powers; marble, 1867-72; Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2014 (printed 2017)
Archival ink on rag paper
40 × 100 in.
Edition of 3, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Antico, Bust of a Young Man, and Francis Harwood, Bust of a Man), 2008-12

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Antico, Bust of a Young Man, and Francis Harwood, Bust of a Man), 2008-12
LightJet print on aluminum
20 x 64 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Malvina Hoffman, Barefoot Man [337236], The Field Museum, Chicago and Jean-Jacques-Francois Saly, Faun Holding Goat, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), 2009-12

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Malvina Hoffman, Barefoot Man [337236], The Field Museum, Chicago and Jean-Jacques-Francois Saly, Faun Holding Goat, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), 2009-12
LightJet print on dibond
45.5 x 73.5 in
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Léon Fagel Discobolos at Rest [after the antique sculpture by Naukydes of Argos {4th century B.C.} in the Vatican], École des Beaux- Arts, Paris), 2011

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Léon Fagel Discobolos at Rest [after the antique sculpture by Naukydes of Argos {4th century B.C.} in the Vatican], École des Beaux- Arts, Paris), 2011
Chromogenic Print
36 x 27 in. / 91.4 x 68.5 cm
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Malvina Hoffman Collection, [top:left to right] Mayan Man [336921]; South African Bushwoman [336951]; Asparoke Indian Man [336935]; Ubangi Woman [336943]; [bottom: left to right] Sudan Woman [336938]; Padaung Woman [336925]; Tibetan Merchant [336941A]; Zulu Woman [336945]; Lapp Man [336917], The Field Museum, Chicago, IL), 2009-2012

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Malvina Hoffman Collection, [top:left to right] Mayan Man [336921]; South African Bushwoman [336951]; Asparoke Indian Man [336935]; Ubangi Woman [336943]; [bottom: left to right] Sudan Woman [336938]; Padaung Woman [336925]; Tibetan Merchant [336941A]; Zulu Woman [336945]; Lapp Man [336917], The Field Museum, Chicago, IL), 2009-2012
LightJet print on aluminum
20 x 28 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day 41 Objects Arranged by Color, 2016

Ken Gonzales-Day
41 Objects Arranged by Color, 2016
Lightjet print on Dibond, UV plexi
34 x 92 inches (w/ border), 30 x 88 inches (image)
Edition of 3, 2 AP

Ken Gonzales-Day Untitled (Reflecting Pool, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, CA), 2009-2012

Ken Gonzales-Day
Untitled (Reflecting Pool, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, CA), 2009-2012
LightJet print on aluminum
30 x 40 in.
Edition of 5, 2 AP

The Profiled project includes depictions of the human form as found in sculpture and physical anthropology collections in Asia, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Northern Europe, Singapore, and the United States and span from antiquity to the 1930s. Yet Profiled is not a history of sculpture: it is a conceptual clustering of cultural artifacts, arranged to foreground the emergence, idealization, and even folly of race, including whiteness. Gonzales-Day's aim is to provide a new context for considering these ambiguous and sometimes troubling objects, some of which might otherwise be withheld from public view. As noted in the Petrus Camper epigraph, an Apollo or a Venus came to symbolize a particular conception of human "achievement" in European thought, and as such, their marble limbs may tell us as much about the times in which they were made as the subjects they depict.

 

Photographing them and researching their origins has helped the artist to better understand not only the conditions of their making, reception, and use, but the malleability of racial categories themselves—including the construction of whiteness. Profiled examines these dated ideologies and their aesthetic manifestations, but the project is as much about the present as it is about the past. Cast, carved, burned, and broken, these are the shadows of people who once lived in this world, or in the imaginations of their makers; they are subtle reminders of the philosophical, metaphysical, spiritual, legal, and scientific claims that once depended upon appearance alone. This project seeks to integrate these motionless—yet multivalent—forms into the complex history of racial formation. Encompassing everything from memorials of emperors and kings to gods and goddesses, Orientalist follies, and racial typologies—together they provide a new perspective on what it means to be profiled in our own time.

Back To Top