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World-Renowned Documentary Photographer Dorothea Lange’s Political Retrospective to Open at Oakland Museum of California in May 2017

(OAKLAND, CA) December 22, 2016—In May 2017, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will present a unique compilation of works by celebrated documentary photographer Dorothea Lange in a special exhibition titled Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing. On view in OMCA’s Great Hall, the exhibition will examine the life and work of Lange, including intimate photographs that illuminate the major social issues of the 20th century. From documenting the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants during the Great Depression to magnifying the incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, Lange’s photographs illustrate the power of photography as a form of social activism. The exhibition includes over 100 photographs, both well recognized and rarely seen, that reveal and re-establish the artist as a significant pioneer in photography as historical documentary and social activism.

“As the source of Dorothea Lange’s personal archive—which was gifted to OMCA 50 years ago—the Oakland Museum of California has the extraordinary opportunity to present a wide range of her works, including everything from notable images such as Migrant Mother and White Angel Breadline to rare prints and personal memorabilia,” says OMCA Curator of Photography and Visual Culture Drew Johnson. “This exhibition will present Lange’s work through an activist’s lens in which she provoked social and political change through her powerful imagery. It will also provide museum visitors the opportunity to see Lange’s works in a different light that stretches beyond fine art, as well as mimic her technique through interactives included in the exhibition.”

Through approximately 130 photographs including vintage prints and unedited proof sheets, as well as personal memorabilia, and historic objects, the exhibition examines how the beloved American photographer’s artistry and advocacy swayed minds and prompted significant change. Organized into seven sections, Politics of Seeing will highlight Lange’s works focused on the Great Depression, the Japanese Internment, World War II, and Postwar California, as well as a section on her early life, an interactive space, and a media room featuring film clips.

In addition, contemporary works by photographers Ken Light, Jason Jaacks, and Janet Delaney demonstrate the continuing inspiration of Lange’s vision, directly connecting to her legacy and current social and political issues such as homelessness, income inequality, racism, xenophobia, and immigration. Questions will prompt conversation and critical thinking around these increasingly relevant topics as part of the exhibition experience.  

An interactive space will explore activism in technique, where visitors can experiment with cropping, juxtaposition, and sequencing to make an image more or less persuasive. Quotes and questions from Lange and a selection of her images focusing on issues of power, authority, and race will be at the center of the activity, which will reflect on Lange’s method of working, demonstrating that individual choices can change the meaning of an image. A special media room will present film clips of Lange speaking about her work, as well as comments from people who knew her.

“Because the Oakland Museum of California houses extraordinary holdings of Lange’s archives as well as her art work, we have the singular opportunity to explore the artist’s photography in a way that has never been done before,” says OMCA Director Lori Fogarty. “OMCA is dedicated to presenting exhibitions that enable our visitors and our community to have transformative experiences through the power of stories, and there is no artist who better demonstrates powerful storytelling through art—or who has had amore profound impact through visual storytelling on our history and culture—than Dorothea Lange.”

The exhibition will be on view in the Oakland Museum of California’s Great Hall May 13 through August 13, 2017. Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.


Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture
December 22, 2016–April 2, 2017
The first exhibition to explore the significance, complex design history, and evolution of sneakers, Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture opens at the Oakland Museum of California in December 2016. Sneakers have long been a fashion staple and symbol of popular culture, worn by millions of people and transcending generations and socioeconomic status. Within the exhibition, visitors will view more than a 100 pairs of iconic sneakers from the 19th century to the present, including rare collectibles from the archives of brand-name manufacturers such as Adidas, Nike, and Reebok, and selections from renowned sneaker collectors—affectionately known as “sneakerheads”—including hip-hop legend Run DMC, sneaker guru Bobbito Garcia, and Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder. The exhibition will prompt visitors to reflect on sneakers as a representation of identity and sports fashion, while also incorporating community-inspired elements including what it means to be “Town-fitted” Oakland-style, a term developed to represent local fashion. Film footage, photographs, design drawings, and interactive media will showcase the history, technical advancements, fashion trends, and marketing campaigns that have played a role in the sneaker’s evolution. Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum. The exhibition is curated by Bata Shoe Museum Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack with OMCA Curator of Public Practice Evelyn Orantes as the host curator. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.

Over the Top: Math Bass and the Imperial Court SF
April 1–July 23, 2017
Familiar symbols, flipped and “queered” to create new shared meaning, are at the heart of this exhibition that pairs new work by a contemporary California artist with the creative practice of a local organization. In paintings, sculpture, and video, perception-bending Los Angeles-based artist Math Bass emphasizes that symbols change meaning according to context and orientation, and that the body and its costumes are meaningful symbols whether they are actually present or only suggested. For Over the Top: Math Bass and the Imperial Court SF, Bass’ compelling work is presented alongside crowns, scepters, portraits, and banners bearing the insignia of the Empresses and Emperors who have served the Imperial Court of San Francisco. These monarchs, elected annually, spearhead charitable fundraising efforts for the alternative society, whose core supporters are drag queens and other members of the LGBTQ community. Over the course of their 51-year history, the Imperial Court has created its own traditions in order to form family and new possibilities for survival. The “Over the Top” symbols activated in this exhibition will highlight acts of fantastic creative invention. Visitors will draw new connections and be both delighted and inspired in learning about practices that are playful, political, and subversive at the same time.

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing
May 13–August 13, 2017
Through the lens of her camera, Dorothea Lange documented 20th century life with riveting, intimate photographs that showed the major issues of the times. The emotional impact of her works continues to resonate with millions and illustrates the power of photography as a form of social activism. From documenting the plight of Dust Bowl migrants during the Great Depression to magnifying the grim conditions of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, Lange’s photographs demonstrate how empathy and compassion, focused through art, can trigger political action. Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing presents approximately 100 photographs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the artist’s gift of her personal archive to the Oakland Museum of California. Drawing upon vintage prints, unedited proof sheets, personal memorabilia, and historic objects, this exhibition takes a unique approach to a beloved American photographer by examining how her artistry and advocacy swayed minds and prompted significant change in this nation’s history. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.


All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50
October 8, 2016–February 12, 2017
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) presents a major exhibition coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s founding on October 15, 1966, in Oakland. Presenting a contemporary view of the Black Panther Party’s legacy from multiple perspectives, All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 shows how the Party continues to inspire culture, social activism, and community empowerment efforts locally, nationally, and internationally. Designed to create empathy and emotional resonance, the exhibition explores the Black Panther Party as a necessary, heroic, and human response to societal needs. Informed by insights from former Black Panthers, artists, scholars, and community members, the exhibition features art installations, historical photographs and media presentations, artifacts, and contemporary works of art.

Warriors Pride, Oakland Pride
Through Winter 2016
In celebration of the Golden State Warriors’ 2015 NBA Championship and 2015-16 record-breaking season with 73 wins, the Oakland Museum of California’s Warriors Pride, Oakland Pride installation includes 350 square feet of exhibition space in the Gallery of California History reflecting the community’s civic pride for Oakland and the team. Museum visitors will be given the exclusive opportunity to view special items provided by the Warriors Community Foundation, including a 2015 NBA Championship Ring lent to OMCA by Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City of Oakland, a jersey signed by the entire 2015 Championship team, a signed basketball by this year’s record-breaking 73-9 team, and sneakers worn by Warriors players Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Festus Ezeli. Interactive features will prompt visitors to reflect on and express why they are proud of Oakland and the Warriors.

Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact
Through June 2017
This exhibition in OMCA’s Gallery of California Natural Sciences takes a look at the wildly diverse and intricate world of one of the most important creatures to human agriculture and the natural environment. Through family-friendly experiences, hands-on activities, and media, Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact touches on topics of honeybees and Bay Area beekeeping, the diversity of California native bee species, citizen science projects, and the similarities between bees and humans. Visitors will discover real bee specimens under a microscope, crawl through a human-sized beehive, and try on a beekeeper suit. In an immersive gallery environment, visitors can explore the causes of bee population decline, learn about the significance of bees to California’s economy and ecosystems, and discover how simple but powerful actions by Californians can help bees to survive in a changing world.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history, and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA’s groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on first-person accounts by people who have shaped California’s cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $15.95 general; $10.95 seniors and students with valid ID, $6.95 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $4 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.


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