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Southern Rites by Gillian Laub

October 15, 2020December 12, 2020

Southern Rites

UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture presents Southern Rites by Gillian Laub, on display from October 15 through December 12.

American photographer Gillian Laub (b. 1975) has spent the last two decades investigating political conflicts, exploring family relationships, and challenging assumptions about cultural identity. In Southern Rites, Laub engages her skills as a photographer, filmmaker, and visual activist to examine the realities of racism and raise questions that are simultaneously painful and essential to understanding the American consciousness.

In 2002, Laub was sent on a magazine assignment to Mount Vernon, Georgia, to document the lives of teenagers in the American South. The town, nestled among fields of Vidalia onions, symbolized the archetype of pastoral, small town American life. The Montgomery County residents Laub encountered were warm, polite, protective of their neighbors, and proud of their history. Yet Laub learned that the joyful adolescent rites of passage celebrated in this rural countryside — high school homecomings and proms — were still racially segregated.

Laub continued to photograph Montgomery County over the following decade, returning even in the face of growing — and eventually violent — resistance from community members and local law enforcement. She documented a town held hostage by the racial tensions and inequities that scar much of the nation’s history. In 2009, a few months after Barack Obama’s first inauguration, Laub’s photographs of segregated proms were published in The New York Times Magazine. The story brought national attention to the town and the following year the proms were finally integrated. The power of her photographic images served as the catalyst and, for a moment, progress seemed inevitable.

Then, in early 2011, tragedy struck the town. Justin Patterson, a twenty-two-year-old unarmed African American man — whose segregated high school homecoming Laub had photographed — was shot and killed by a sixty-two-year-old white man. Laub’s project, which began as an exploration of segregated high school rituals, evolved into an urgent mandate to confront the painful realities of discrimination and structural racism. Laub continued to document the town over the following decade, during which the country re-elected its first African American president and the ubiquity of camera phones gave rise to citizen journalism exposing racially motivated violence. As the Black Lives Matter Movement and national protests proliferated, Laub uncovered a complex story about adolescence, race, the legacy of slavery, and the deeply rooted practice of segregation in the American South.

Southern Rites is a specific story about twenty-first century young people in the American South, yet it poses a universal question about human experience: can a new generation liberate itself from a harrowing and traumatic past to create a different future?

The 2015 HBO feature film Southern Rites by Gillian Laub (87 minutes) is available for viewing to members of the UMBC campus community. (A UMBC email address is required.) Visit here to sign up to view the film.

“Riveting…In a calm, understated tone, Southern Rites digs deep to expose the roots that have made segregated proms and other affronts possible. [The film] is a portrait of the inequities that lead to disaster on the streets of cities like Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.”
The New York Times

On Wednesday, October 28 at 7 p.m., artist Gillian Laub presented a virtual tour of the exhibition — this talk is now available online here.

A virtual tour of the exhibition is available on the CADVC website.

Southern Rites is organized by the International Center of Photography and Curator Maya Benton.

Reserving Tickets

Update 11/9/20: Because of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the greater Baltimore area, tickets to Southern Rites are now available only to UMBC students, faculty and staff who are pre-approved to be on campus. We regret any inconvenience.

Tickets to Southern Rites are free. We kindly ask that you plan to attend only once to limit the demand on tickets.

The exhibition is accompanied by an optional viewing of the 90-minute HBO documentary Southern Rites. Visitors who wish to view the film in the CADVC’s screening room should select the “Gallery & Film” option when obtaining tickets.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a limit of 5 available tickets per time slot to attend the exhibit. Each patron must reserve their ticket individually. While in the gallery, visitors will walk through the exhibition on a socially distanced, but accessible directional path, similar to one-way grocery store lanes. All visitors are respectfully asked to socially distance themselves from others at a distance of six feet and to wear a mask at all times when in the gallery for the protection of our staff, students, and the public.

Please visit here to obtain your tickets.

Gallery Hours

The CADVC is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

45-minute time slots will be available to visit the gallery exhibit every day at 10 a.m., 10:55 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 12:40 p.m., and 1:35 p.m.

A two hour fifteen minute time slot will be available to view the Southern Rites film and visit the gallery exhibit each day at 2:30 p.m.

Directions and Parking

Free parking is available immediately adjacent to the Performing Arts and Humanities Building in Lot 8 during the week and weekend. Please ignore all parking enforcement signs — campus parking is open in all areas this fall. The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture is located just down the hill from Lot 8 on the left hand side of the Fine Arts Building. The CADVC gallery and events are always free and open to the public.

From downtown Baltimore, take I-95 south, then take Exit 47B and follow clearly marked signs to Route 166 and UMBC. As you enter the campus, proceed straight through the first roundabout, and then turn left at the second roundabout to merge onto the inner loop of Hilltop Circle, the road that surrounds the campus. At the traffic light at Hilltop Road, take a right, and then an immediate left into Parking Lot 8.

From I-695, take Exit 12C onto Wilkens Avenue heading west. At the roundabout, turn left to enter campus on Hilltop Road. Proceed straight through the traffic light, and then take an immediate left into Parking Lot 8.

From the Washington area, take I-95 north toward Baltimore, then take Exit 47B and follow clearly marked signs to Route 166 and UMBC. As you enter the campus, proceed straight through the first roundabout, and then turn left at the second roundabout to merge onto the inner loop of Hilltop Circle, the road that surrounds the campus. At the traffic light at Hilltop Road, take a right, and then an immediate left into Parking Lot 8.

For GPS devices, use Geocode 39.255363 -76.715370. Please note that the entire UMBC campus has one street address — 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250 — so Google and Apple maps may not provide sufficient detail.

Image: Inkjet Print; © Gillian Laub; Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery; Julie and Bubba, Mount Vernon, Georgia, 2002


October 15, 2020
December 12, 2020
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Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC)
UMBC Fine Arts Building, 1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, MD 21250 United States
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