Based on a book by the same name, the public art exhibit charts the author’s lifelong interest in photography that paralleled his writing.

New York University’s Kimmel Windows spotlights the photography of Ralph Ellison, groundbreaking author of Invisible Man and former NYU professor, in an exhibition running Oct. 26, 2023 through March 18, 2024. Ralph Elllison: Photographer is on view around the clock in 13 windows along Laguardia Place and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village.

The exhibition features photographs from the book, on loan from the Ellison Archive at the Library of Congress.

Widely considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, Ellison won the National Book Award in 1953 for Invisible Man, a seminal work about being Black in America. He was NYU’s Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities from 1970 to 1979.

The exhibition draws from the new book, Ralph Ellison: Photographer, published by the Gordon Parks Foundation and Stiedl (2022) and edited by Michal Raz-Russo, the foundation’s programs director, and Dr. John F. Callahan,  professor emeritus, Morgan S. Odell professor of Humanities at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, and literary executor for Ralph Ellison. Raz-Russo and Callahan curated the exhibition.

While famous for his writing, Ellison experimented with photography for most of his life. He documented New York City in the 1940s, sometimes working alongside Parks, and he often used his images as notes for his writing. He sometimes worked as a freelance photographer to supplement his writing income. His body of work reveals a creative mind interested in experimentation and the representation of Black life in America.

Several public events are scheduled for Oct. 28 to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Two curator-led walking tours of the exhibition are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Each should last about 45 minutes.

At 2 p.m, NYU alumni, writer, and founder of Audible, Don Katz, will join Professor Michael Dinwiddie of the Gallatin School for Individualized Studyfor a conversation about Invisible Man in the NYU Global Center, 238 Thompson St.

At 3:30 p.m. co-curators Raz-Russo and Callahan are featured in The Photography of Ralph Ellison: The Images, Life and Legacy in the NYU Kimmel Center.  The program is moderated by Michael B. Gillespie, associate professor in the Martin Scorsese Department of Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts.

The day concludes with Ellison, Ellington, Jazz & Swing, at 7 p.m. in the Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South. The NYU All-University Big Band will perform in honor of the friendship between Ellison and Duke Ellington.

About NYU Kimmel Windows | Art in Public Places

Kimmel Windows (founded in 2003) is located on LaGuardia Place and West 3rd Street, one block south of iconic Washington Square Park in historic Greenwich Village. The 13 ground floor vitrines offer three exhibitions a year. The Windows operate under the umbrella of the Provost’s office, at the heart of NYU’s Art in Public Places initiative, which facilitates the display of art in outdoor spaces around campus. It offers professionally curated, thoughtful, and engaging exhibitions organized by NYU graduate students, faculty, departments, and programs, resulting in a program that represents the wide range of scholarly discourse at New York University.

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