The compelling images by Earlie Hudnall, Jr. (b. 1946, Hattiesburg, Mississippi) will be featured this Spring, in his second solo exhibition at PDNB Gallery.
Hudnall, who is one of the most notable African American photographers living today, has extensively documented the African American neighborhoods in Houston, Texas.
In 1968, after serving as a Marine in Vietnam, he enrolled at Texas Southern University, where he studied art under the direction of John Biggers, who became a great friend and mentor. During his time at TSU, he was hired to be a photographer for the Model Cities Program, part of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty initiative. This project introduced him to the various communities of Houston such as the Fourth Ward, Fifth Ward, Trinity Garden and the Hispanic neighborhoods.
Both his father and the artist, John Biggers, recommended that Earlie create art that draws on his life experiences. This is what he continues to do to this day. His photographs capture life as it is. He travels through neighborhoods documenting kids playing in the streets, women at church wearing elaborate hats, mothers hugging their kids, July 4th parades. Children and the Elderly are his favorite subjects, a look into the past and the future.
This exhibition will include his most moving photograph, Hip Hop. Earlie found him in Galveston. The thin, sinuous boy wears his pants and cap in a gangster style with a pager clipped in his pocket. The pager was a symbol of the drug culture at the time. His gold necklace sparkles across his bare chest. He looks into the camera with older eyes. His figure is highlighted all around, like the Virgin of Guadalupe. The image is full of impact, the subject has all the wrong signals of a boy that is growing up too fast in the wrong direction. It is a powerful image that still keeps us wondering what this young man became.
On a more joyful note, Hudnall's photograph from the Third Ward of the mother with her sons can't help but make us smile. The mother proudly holds her sons to her side while the kids are smiling for the camera. One can see the mother's love exuding in this photograph. It is a timeless image of motherhood.
At Ease, taken in Houston's Fourth Ward in 1991, is a striking photograph of a man's back. One can imagine the subject's face while looking at his wrinkled shirt and his arms and old hands crossed behind him. This is an honest portrait of a man that could have many stories to tell. Earlie is asking us to pay attention.
Photographs from the artist's hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi will also be included. Black Water Baptist Church is one of the few images of local architecture. The haggard church is hidden among pine trees, a man is walking to the entrance. It is not clear that the building is habitable. It is a tired, fragile building, the wood buckles, and the paint is gone. Earlie captures the rich character of this old church with his camera, as he does with his elderly subjects.
Earlie Hudnall's photographs have been included in a traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond. The exhibition catalog features Earlie's photograph, Looking Out, on the back cover. His mentor, John Biggers, is also included in the exhibition.
Earlie's photographs are in major museum collections including the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Chicago Art Institute, National Museum of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.