Exhibition Review: Gavin Brown's Enterprise - Latoya Ruby Frazier

Exhibition Review: Gavin Brown's Enterprise - Latoya Ruby Frazier

  Momme , 2018  © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Momme, 2018  © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Review by: Billy Anania

Latoya Ruby Frazier uses a camera to chart the systematic breakdown of oppression on ordinary people, and show how big paradigm shifts affect civil discourse.

Three collections of Frazier’s photography are spread through three floors of Gavin Brown’s enterprise in Harlem. Her debut solo exhibition for the gallery features work from the beginning of her career to the present.

  Mom's Spine Surgery,  2008  © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Mom's Spine Surgery, 2008  © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Frazier’s Flint is Family series focuses on the Michigan city’s water crisis and its consequences on three generations of women. These photographs capture how the city and residents reacted to the loss of a basic necessity through human error. For five months, the photographer experienced life through the eyes of Shea Cobb, a poet and singer, along with her mother Renée and daughter Zion.

As the local issue became nationwide news, tension grew between residents and local government. Frazier conveys this through photos of the Cobb family, protesters and landscapes. The series was first published in an Elle magazine feature on the historic water crisis in September 2016.

  Grandma Ruby and J.C. Playing with Christmas Toys in Her Living Room,  2006 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Grandma Ruby and J.C. Playing with Christmas Toys in Her Living Room, 2006 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

The second floor of the gallery hosts The Notion of Family, Frazier’s earliest photography series. Over the course of 12 years, she documented the shifting industrial landscape in her hometown of Braddock, PA. Once a booming steel town, its prominence faded after the industry’s collapse. Frazier documented the aftereffects, and how economic downturn led to social turmoil.

Much like the Flint series, The Notion of Family focuses on three generations of women, but in her own family: Her grandmother, her mother and herself. Between intimate family portraits, Frazier includes photos of crumbling architecture and the clutter of the poor. Photographs of herself beside other men and women in her family reveal similarities in demeanor and posture. They share the unrest of their time and, as such, reveal grace.

  Shea Brushing Zion's teeth with bottled water in her bathroom,  2016/2017 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Shea Brushing Zion's teeth with bottled water in her bathroom, 2016/2017 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Another exhibition on the gallery’s third floor is a recent collaboration between Frazier and sculpture artist Abigail DeVille. A Pilgrimage to Noah Purifoy’s Desert Art Museum details their journey to the assemblage master’s outdoor museum in Joshua Tree, California. Frazier and DeVille view Purifoy as a creative predecessor, and wanted to pay homage to his legacy.

Purifoy’s work presented new possibilities to Frazier and DeVille, who both show how material waste affects others. His sculptures made from discarded and burned materials are shown in a new context as DeVille models for the camera, enshrouded in a poncho and holding a huge diamond-shaped sculpture. These photographs reveal the spirituality of their shared experience, and that Purifoy can still influence new forms of expression.

  Pat Brunty the caretaker standing behind No Contest 1994, Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Joshua Tree, CA 2016/2017 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Pat Brunty the caretaker standing behind No Contest 1994, Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Joshua Tree, CA 2016/2017 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Gavin Brown’s enterprise has planned several special programs to coincide with Frazier’s exhibition, including conversations with other artists and special performances. Visit https://gavinbrown.biz for more information.

  Grandma Ruby's Refrigerator 2007 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

Grandma Ruby's Refrigerator 2007 © Latoya Ruby Frazier

  Shea's Aunt Denise and Uncle Rodney in their home on Foster Street watching President Obama take a sip of Flint water © 2016/2017

Shea's Aunt Denise and Uncle Rodney in their home on Foster Street watching President Obama take a sip of Flint water © 2016/2017

*all photos are Courtesy Latoya Ruby Frazier and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome

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