The giant launch this weekend of the Barry Jenkins film “If Beale Street Could Talk” makes a model new exhibition at Chelsea’s David Zwirner gallery all the additional associated. “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin” affords a multimedia glimpse of the “Beale Street” novelist, who died in 1987.
The exhibition has been curated by New Yorker drama critic Hilton Als, who carried out a unusual recording of Baldwin singing the non secular “Precious Lord” the alternative night time time as he talked about the quite a few kinds of works on present.
Visitors will see photos by Richard Avedon — who was a high-school pal of Baldwin’s at DeWitt Clinton in The Bronx — which were printed of their college journal, the Magpie. There are moreover Avedon portraits of the writer, as well as to a charming contact sheet of Baldwin sitting collectively together with his mother, Berdis.
While Baldwin’s relationship collectively together with his Baptist minister stepfather, David, who often called him “the ugliest boy he had ever seen,” supplied ample battle to encourage his first novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953), Baldwin remained shut to his mother. The contact sheet reveals Baldwin in a swimsuit and tie and his mother in a black robe and pearls. They giggle and lean into each other like lifelong friends. A caption subsequent to the further illuminates their relationship. “I used to tell my mother, when I was little, when I grow up I’m going to do this or do that and I’m going to be a great writer. And she would say, very calmly, very dryly, ‘It’s more than a notion.’ ”
The exhibit moreover has a stupendous oil painting of Baldwin by his early mentor Beauford Delaney (1901-79), whom he met when he was a teen. Encased first editions of such seminal works as a result of the essay assortment “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) and “Nobody Knows My Name” (1961) provide a timeline of Baldwin’s literary occupation alongside the seen works.
Another room on the gallery reveals clips that seize Baldwin’s curiosity in film and theater. Baldwin wrote two performs, “The Amen Corner” (1954) and “Blues for Mister Charlie” (1964), whose first editions are moreover on present. For an author who bore such profound witness to the 20th-century African-American experience on a variety of platforms, “God Made My Face” gives a tantalizing overview of the extent of Baldwin’s cultural attain — and why he stays an oracle for contemporary artists equal to Jenkins.
“God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin” on the David Zwirner gallery. Through Feb. 16. 525 W. 19th St.; DavidZwirner.com