artists & participants
LaToya Ruby Frazier's documentary practice focuses on her family and her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Braddock was once home to a thriving steel industry that now lies decaying. Frazier captures this place and the people in it with an unflinching eye that connects her practice with those of socially engaged American photographers like Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Gordon Parks. Her work, as she tells it, is "the story of economic globalization and the decline of manufacturing as told through the bodies of three generations of African-American women." The primary subjects of this chronicle are Frazier's Grandma Ruby (1925–2009), her mom (b. 1959), and the artist herself (b. 1982).
LaToya Ruby Frazier: WITNESS features photographs, videos, digital works, and a recent photolithograph series. Prints from the artist's renowned Notion of Family series will be on view alongside portraits Frazier has made in collaboration with her mother, and works that address the recent closure and demolition of Braddock's only hospital.
Between 1980 and 1985 many of Braddock's steel mills downsized or ceased operating, resulting in economic instability and widespread joblessness. Many residents abandoned the town in search of a better life elsewhere. 'Redlining' and the politically calculating biases of the Reagan administration's War on Drugs further debilitated this community. Lacking the means to secure stable housing, Braddock residents have watched homes and businesses fall into disrepair and outright collapse around them.
Frazier's documentary practice is a form of visual propaganda that is deeply concerned with how power can be identified, claimed, and redirected. While popular opinion may assert that a participant driven by emotional connections to an issue may be too biased to see a situation clearly, Frazier's work communicates her concerns with the utmost clarity and conviction, affording it a compelling authenticity. The precision, honesty, and economy of Frazier's delivery make her stories so available that, like a mirror, it lets us see ourselves in her work.
LaToya Ruby Frazier: WITNESS is organized by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Curator Dean Daderko and will be on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston from November 12–March 2, 2014.
LaToya Ruby Frazier:
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston