"'My father said, during all the years I lived with him, that I was the ugliest boy he had ever seen, and I had absolutely no reason to doubt him.' So wrote James Baldwin in 1976, and he repeated his father’s words often. He did have reason to doubt them though. They didn’t jibe with my impression of the writer’s appearance as taken from a photograph on the cover of the 1955 paperback edition of Notes of a Native Son, which I owned and treasured when I was a teenager, and a copy of which you’ll find on display toward the start of the exhibition God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin at David Zwirner.
I think he can usefully be called a hero. When I was a kid I felt he was one because of what I took to be his furious moral certainty. Now I look to him for his furious uncertainty. And I still have my copy, time softened with touching, of Notes of a Native Son, with him on the cover, his face furrow-browed but dreamy, his gaze fixed somewhere outside camera range."
Read the full review in The New York Times
God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin is on view at 525 & 533 West 19th Street in New York through February 16, 2019, when the galleries will close early at 2 PM for a special event.
Image: Larry Wolhandler, Bust of James Baldwin, 1975