Exhibition Review: Gavin Brown's Enterprise - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*all photos are Courtesy Latoya Ruby Frazier and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome