‘Witness’ Revisits Carrie Mae Weems’ Powerful Oeuvre

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Red-tinted portraits of a man and woman with title text overlaid.
Carrie Mae Weems, ‘You Became Mammie, Mama, Mother, Then, Yes, Confidant-Ha/ Descending the Throne You Became Foot Soldier & Cook,’ 1995-96; chromogenic print with sandblasted text. (© Carrie Mae Weems; Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Looking back on four decades of work by Carrie Mae Weems, Witness marks the photographer’s first exhibition at Fraenkel—and a welcome bounty for Bay Area art lovers. The show encompasses documentary-style photographs, scenes of Black domesticity, staged reckonings with structures of power, lyrical video work and powerful combinations of image and text. It’s especially fitting to revisit this work (or see it for the first time) in the Bay Area, where Weems lived on and off during the ’70s and ’80s, participating in Anna Halprin’s San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop and studying folklore at UC Berkeley.

Witness’ is on view Sept. 9–Nov. 12 at Fraenkel Gallery (49 Geary, San Francisco).