Kris Graves: The Testament Project
About a month ago, I was standing in a room of vivid color surrounded by beautiful faces, each shimmering with a different spectrum of the rainbow. I had the lucky opportunity to experience Kris Graves’ new work, The Testament Project, in person at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado, which runs through November 5th. When the show opened, Kris held the audience in rapt attention as he discussed his process and project, turning the idea of being a person of color on its head. The large glowing photographs and video components were exhibited in an enclosed rectangular room which served as a small chapel of possibility and respect, taking the viewer to a spiritual space filled with light, color, and thoughtfulness. I believe that all who experienced it came away a little bit changed.
Kris is an artist who does it all; beyond his photographic endeavors he was the founder of the gallery, Kris Graves Projects, and has become a prolific bookmaker and publisher. The third volume of The Testament Project is available here. Kris is also a wonderfully supportive and warm person, making his successes even more meaningful. He recently photographed spaces where police have taken black lives for Vanity Fair and is currently working on a photographic series with the heads of state of the Nation of Hawai‘i group. The series of works will be captioned by historical information about the time before the United States occupied and stole Hawai’i.
Kris Graves (b. 1982 New York, NY) is a photographer and publisher based in New York and London. He received his BFA in Visual Arts from S.U.N.Y. Purchase College. He has been published and exhibited globally, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, England; Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon; Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; ClampArt Gallery in New York; Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach; and Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado among others. He is represented by Sasha Wolf Projects.
The Testament Project is an exploration and re-conception of the contemporary black experience in America. More often than not, black people are portrayed in the extreme – either as very rich or very poor, they are demonized, infantilized, ridiculed, idolized or hyper-sexualized; and within the art canon there is a noticeable scarcity of black representation. In the glowing portraits, I give control of the colored lighting to my subjects, in order to create a space that is participatory and empowered. By including my subjects in the creation of the scene and the altering of color, I seek to create photographs that portray individuality in addition to their blackness.
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