Ashley Hunt (based in Los Angeles) is both an artist and activist. Over the last 20 years, he has dedicated his socially-engaged art practice 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 impact.
The photographs in Hunt's installation, Degrees of Visibility, depict the landscapes in which jails, prisons, and detention centers are embedded in the United States. Taken from publicly accessible points of view, the images draw attention to the ubiquity of incarceration in the U.S., which has 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. The images also reflect on how this immense social problem remains largely hidden from sight. Hunt’s photograph of Marin County Jail, for instance, shows the bucolic green hill which hides the facility beneath where 274 individuals are imprisoned. In Marin, one of the richest counties in the nation, incarceration is embedded into the terrain so that it does not 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 U.S. 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 and writer based in Los Angeles, where he is faculty at the California Institute of the Arts. In works including 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 to prisons to museums, including Pitzer Art Galleries, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Project Row Houses, Houston; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Tate Modern, London; Documenta 12, Germany, and Sinopale Biennial, 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.