I first became aware of the work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard with an exhibit held at the Akron Art Museum 1991. Many of you probably aren’t familiar with the Akron Art Museum but it was, and probably still is, one of the finest small museums in the country specializing in photography. I was very fortunate to grow up in Akron and to be exposed to the variety of riches that was brought to me.
Meatyard is more familiar, no doubt, to readers who remember his dark, somewhat disturbing pictures of his children, his wife, his friends all dressed up in masks. A field day for academics but some interesting work nonetheless. Why do you know about Meatyard? Probably because of the Akron Art Museum. Its long-time curator, Barbara Tannenbaum–who only recently left Akron to take on the role of Curator of Photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art–literally wrote the book on Meatyard (or at least co-wrote it) to accompany the first major exhibit of his work in many years, which traveled nationally.
Now, the Art Institute of Chicago is taking a shot a Meatyard with a small, traveling exhibit. This new exhibit originated there and is now at the deYoung in San Francisco. After it closes on February 26 it will move to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, opening on May 19.
Update: I couldn’t find the current exhibition catalog online but I found something better: A new book from Radius Books on Meatyard, just published this past August.