Chester Higgin : Black Pantheon,

14/09/2023 - 28/10/2023

Bruce Silverstein 
529 West 20th Street, 3rd Floor 
10011 New York   

Black Pantheon, an exhibition of Chester Higgins’ portraits, is not a comprehensive overview of his life’s work but rather disparate but also strategically placed moments with individuals he encountered and photographed for over some fifty years.  In framing the title of this exhibition under the rubric of pantheon we are guided by the photographer to view these faces and individuals as the greatest group of people he photographed.  They belong together as iconic figures in the ‘then’ (history) and ‘contemporaneously’ (now).  The images ignite the viewer's imagination considering the historical significance of the individuals who stood, sat, and performed in front of Higgins’ lense.  Higgins seems at ease with his subjects, an ease informed by an electric curiosity that I believe Higgins has for people who transformed American history.  His photographs are empowering, yet nuanced in framing social justice activists and artists (James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Harry Belafonte), we have read, or seen on screen and stage such as (Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Melvin Van Peebles) ) and activists we have followed on the news and/or on protest lines (Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz) or historians and political  leaders (John Hendrick Clarke, Benjamin Mays, Shirley Chisholm) who perform their duties, and iconic figures who changed the course of the black experience globally like (Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Haile Selassie, Muhammad Ali). In my view his quest continues to document the human experience, a lifelong journey wherein a close read of his subjects is always paramount, and in that quest Higgins has unequivocally reshaped how black people globally have been viewed throughout the African diaspora.