Portraits of a Disappearing America
Photographs by Alex Leme
In the context of gradual but steady rise of agrobusiness, coupled with the ongoing effects of desegregation, the loss of small, family-owned and run farms, and the century-long exodus of rural populations to urban centers, farming communities have been suffering a slow and painful decline for decades. Loss of jobs, economically shattered families, failed businesses, de-population, and a general malaise of perceived worthlessness are common features of conversations that run through many small towns in the United States. Although these towns are often located just outside major metropolises, the realities of their social and economic landscapes are worlds apart.
Intrigued by the continuing disappearance of rural towns in America, Brazilian born photographer Alex Leme spent two years capturing the silent mood of Cotton Plant, a small town of 650 nestled in the rural northeast portion of Arkansas, between Little Rock and Memphis, Tennessee. Despite its rich history and the “promising” nature of its past, Cotton Plant has suffered the same challenges and consequences as many other small rural towns. What once was a relatively thriving center and one of the fastest growing communities in Eastern Arkansas, is now a town littered with ghost factories, abandoned schools, and the carcasses of crumbling buildings while the handful of the remaining local stores struggle to survive. Much of the historic downtown has been demolished, and only a few dignified older homes remain. The sense of purpose that once accompanied steady, meaningful work has long since vanished.
Today the small town atmosphere with its slow pace and tightly knit communities, which so much defined rural America, is strongly undermined by growing isolation and forced idleness. Leme’s images of Cotton Plant landscapes and people subtly convey a nearly threatening stillness and quietly question the future of a forgotten America.
Alex Leme is a Brazilian born photographer and art historian who resides in Little Rock, Arkansas. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States, Brazil, France, England, China, and Malaysia. In addition to numerous private collections, Alex’s photographs can be found in prestigious public collections including the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, France; Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Museum of Contemporary Art), Olinda, Brazil; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, Louisiana; and the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida. More recently, Leme was recognized by the Oxford American magazine as one of the “100 New Superstars of Southern Art.” In 2010, he was awarded En Foco’s New Works Fellowship in New York for his ongoing project about disappearing small towns in the United States. Whenever he is not on the road documenting American small towns, Leme can be found dividing his time between his art historical studies and working as the art editor for Equinox Literary and Art Journal.
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Photographs by Alex Leme (archival pigment prints, mounted and framed):
Approx. 30 color photographs
Size: 21 x 25 inches / 53.34 x 63.50 cm
Space Requirements: approx. 120 – 150 running feet / 36 — 45 running meter
Participation Fee: Upon Request
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Available from January 2015
Photography workshops, talks and guided tours of the exhibition with Alex Leme, for all age groups.
Alexandra Le Faou
P +1 646 233 3621
F +1 212 202 4845