January 24, 2018
by Clayton Press
Art can be as normal as life, but how lives are lived is infinitely variable, defying definitions of normalcy. The artistic life of LaToya Ruby Frazier has been well documented almost to the point of journalistic recycling. It is difficult to add to the facts and flavors. She began photographing her family at 16, gradually opening her lens to include her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, population 2,100, an impoverished Rust Belt borough outside of Pittsburgh. […]
While Frazier’s photography is frequently and understandably linked to the work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks, it reaches farther precisely because Frazier is both documentarian and committed activist. Few artists choose this path and do it successfully, especially early in their careers. Martha Rosler, for one, has consistently connected life and art as an advocate activist.
Effectively, Frazier’s exhibition is a retrospective in three interrelated parts, but not presented in chronological order. Start in the middle on Floor 2 with The Notion of Family. It is a 13-year photographic document of Frazier in and a part of a three-generation Black matriarchy in Braddock. She is there, front and center with her grandmother and mother, participating in family life. Her black and white analog photographs are rich with everyday banality like a refrigerator plastered with magnets, photos and coloring book pictures and crowned with cereal boxes (Grandma Ruby’s Refrigerator, 2007). There are emotionally drained, yet palpable, portraits like daughter and mother anchoring opposite ends of the living room sofa (Mom and Me on Her Couch, 2010). […]
The exhibition is hardly static. There is an extensive program of art-making workshops, panel discussions and performances. True to her “manifesto,” Frazier is using the gallery space to record history; heighten public health awareness; examine the legacy of Purifoy; discuss the Flint ecological crisis, and entertain with a performance by The Sister Tour.
Gavin Brown’s enterprise, 439 W. 127th Street, New York
Courtesy of: Forbes Art & Entertainment