Deborah Luster: One Big Self

One Big Self, the artist’s second solo show with the gallery, will feature photographs of “people who happened to be in prison” in Louisiana, including the maximum-security penitentiary at Angola. Luster began the One Big Self series in 1998 in the aftermath of her mother’s unsolved murder. She became obsessed with the effects of violence and crime on families and society and sought to create a visual record of the lives of inmates in the American prison system. Luster made numerous trips to Angola, and other Louisiana prisons, over the course of several years. 

The complete project was acquired by the National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Pilara Foundation’s Pier 24; and is represented in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. 

The One Big Self series humanizes the inmates and reveals the complex realities of incarceration. In her monograph One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, Luster’s photographs are accompanied by a book-length poem by her project collaborator, poet C.D. Wright. In the exhibition, the portraits are accompanied by a silent film, Memory of Sound from her Angola Screen Test series.

One Big Self humanizes the inmates of Angola and encourages viewers to consider their own relationships to crime and punishment. 

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