The de Menil Gallery Archive

Masculinity: Rites of Passage, Photographs by David Hilliard

de Menil Gallery, Groton School
January 10 ---March 6, 2011
Born in nearby Lowell, Massachusetts, David Hilliard has exhibited his multi-panel photographic tableaux in Barcelona, Atlanta, Frankfurt, Kansas City, and Santa Monica. He has taught photography at Harvard University and the Yale School of Art and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. The lush color of his images transforms ordinary back streets and interiors of working-class Lowell into a rich visual feast, stimulating both the eye and the imagination, since so much of Hillliard’s work draws the viewer into the realm of his own interior life.
Hilliard works in a large format (usually 20 x 40) and characteristically arranges his photographs in three related panels. Because the panels employ different depths of field and focal points, they are rarely just multi-part panorama shots of a single subject, but instead resemble medieval triptychs where the side panels either amplify or comment on the principal image of the central panel.
One of the central themes of Hilliard’s work has been to explore the meaning of masculinity in contemporary culture from childhood and coming of age on into adulthood and the closing decades of life. The images chosen for the winter show in the de Menil Gallery highlight this strain in Hilliard’s work and document many familiar waypoints along the road to manhood. Viewers will soon learn to recognize the artist’s father, whose robust personality and signature Hawaiian shirts dominate many of the photographs. Yet the images also document a particularly intense and loving relationship between a father and his gay son.
Hilliard’s images are never didactic and often ambiguous, inviting the viewer to supply his or her own backstory for the mysterious scene they depict.
All shows at the de Menil Gallery are free and open to the public. The gallery is open from 9 to 3 on weekdays (except Wednesdays) and 11 to 4 on weekends (except holiday weekends.)
The de Menil Gallery is located in the Dillon Art Center at Groton School a mile and half south of Groton Center on Rte. 111. Please enter by the gate marked “athletics” and look for a silver-roofed building, which is the Art Center.