Ashley Hunt (lives in Los Angeles) is both an artist and activist. He’s dedicated his socially-engaged art practice over the last 20 years to documenting the expansion of the U.S. prison system. While tracing the proliferation of prisons across the nation, Hunt also explores how people fail to see the extent of incarceration’s impacts.
The photographs in this installation depict the American landscapes in which jails, prisons, and detention centers are embedded. Taken from publicly accessible points of view, they draw attention to the ubiquity of incarceration in the US, with 2.2 million people in prisons and jails and another 4.7 million people under parole or probation supervision. The images also reflect on how this immense social problem remains largely hidden from sight. Particularly striking is Hunt’s photograph of Marin County Jail, where 274 individuals are incarcerated in a facility that lies beneath a bucolic green hill. In Marin, one of the richest counties in the nation, incarceration is embedded into the terrain so that it doesn’t disturb the view. Hunt’s installation of the photographs in stacks on top of crates and clipped to plywood boards gestures to the excess of images and the ongoing expansion of the US carceral state, ever present but barely visible. Hunt states: “The more that prisons and jails are used as the solution to every kind of social problem that our society doesn’t want to deal with, the more we see a desire to erase that from view.”
As part of Barring Freedom, Hunt worked with local activists on a printable download, available here.
Ashley Hunt is an artist, writer and teacher based in Los Angeles. In works like Corrections Documentary Project (2001–10), Prison Maps (2002), A World Map in Which We See… (2004–07), Notes on the Emptying of a City (2006–10), and Degrees of Visibility (2010–present), Hunt works in dialogue with movement building and grassroots organizations, including Critical Resistance, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Citizens for Quality Education, Southerners on New Ground, and Friends and Family of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. His works have shown in venues ranging from community centers and prisons to museums, including Pitzer Art Galleries, the Museum of Modern Art, Project Row Houses, the Hammer Museum, the Tate Modern, Documenta 12, and Sinopale Biennial in Turkey. His writings include the book Notes on the Emptying of a City, and have appeared in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Hunt lives in Los Angeles where he teaches in the Photography and Media Program at CalArts.