RICHMOND, VA- Opening in January at the Anderson Gallery, exhibitions by two artists examine urban transformation and the experience of place. In A Haunted Capital, photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier explores the effects of deindustrialization on the lives of individuals and communities from an intensely personal and socially activist stance, grounded in the particulars of locale. Ester Partegàs, on the other hand, approaches these themes from a conceptual point of view. Viewing the city as a provisional and packaged phenomenon, she interrogates the certainty and singularity of the urban spaces we occupy in You Are Here. Both exhibitions will open with a free public reception on Friday, January 17, from 5-7 pm and will remain on view through March 9.
Additionally, Sponge, a project by artist Hope Ginsburg housed on the Gallery’s third floor, will offer visitors the opportunity to see student work on January 17. Twelve Five, a night of performances and other activities by students from the Ginsburg-led Fall 2013 course Live Art Workshop, will be ongoing from 5-7 pm.
The public is also invited to attend two related programs. A Conversation with LaToya Ruby Frazier and Dean Daderko, curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, will take place on Thursday, January 16, at 5:30 pm at the Grace Street Theater, located at 934 West Grace Street. The program is cosponsored by the VCUarts Department of Photography and Film. Ester Partegàs will give a gallery talk on Wednesday evening, January 29; refreshments will be offered at 5 pm, followed by the program at 5:30 pm. Both events are free.
LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital
Combining elements of portraiture and social documentary, Frazier’s photographs and videos portray her family and her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a working-class suburb of Pittsburgh. The site of Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill, Braddock is one of many Rust Belt communities decimated by the rise of deindustrialization and the relocation of manufacturing oversees. Frazier’s portrayal of this American landscape is in stark contrast to images from a recent corporate ad campaign set in Braddock, which she felt not only erased the troubled realities of her endangered town but also excluded the community to which her family belongs.
As Frazier focuses her lens on her grandmother, her mother, and herself, collaboratively addressing issues of self-representation, she illuminates how personal and community history intertwine. Each generation of her family represents a different period in Braddock’s evolution, from its early twentieth-century prosperity to its steep decline in the wake of governmental abandonment. Braddock’s few remaining inhabitants, many of them African American, now struggle economically with little access to health care. Though intimate in scope, Frazier’s images powerfully draw attention to larger social issues pertaining to class and the environment. Among a number of other recent exhibitions, Frazier’s work was featured in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, Greater New York at P.S.1 MoMA in 2010, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s Younger Than Jesus triennial of 2009. She is Associate Curator for the Mason Gross Galleries at Rutgers University and Critic in Photography at the Yale School of Art.
LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.
Ester Partegàs: You Are Here
Ester Partegàs often addresses the most banal aspects of the urban landscape with a keen eye for telling details that otherwise would be overlooked or dismissed. She focuses especially on the psychological dimensions of indeterminate spaces, reflecting not only on how their anonymity can unmoor us, but also on the sense of possibility that can arise when considering anew the commonplace and discarded.
At the Anderson Gallery, in an exhibition organized by Director Ashley Kistler, Partegàs uses the format of a wrap-around installation, as she has previously, to situate the viewer in the kind of no-man’s-land that infiltrates the contemporary landscape to an ever greater degree. Black-and-white wallpaper encircling the gallery depicts a weed-choked expanse of a boarded-up structure—perhaps the wall of a former factory, now long abandoned. This imagery reflects Partegàs’s longstanding fascination with borderlines and margins and the potential for transformation they represent, “where one thing is starting to become something else,” she notes.
The visual allure of several large-scale color photo-transparencies, illuminated in light boxes, offers a striking contrast to the surrounding backdrop. Upon closer inspection, these scenes of nature and freshly minted urban views reveal glitches—a rip, a fold, or a slice of background or foreground—indicative of their actual point of origin. Twice removed from reality, Partegàs’s photographs document images appearing on vinyl barriers around construction sites, as well as a point where the fictional subsumes any trace of the real. In You Are Here, her layering of image and space calls into question the meaning and certitude of this familiar phrase, challenging us to reexamine how we understand the world and our place within it.
Originally from La Garriga, Barcelona, Ester Partegàs is Assistant Professor in the VCU Department of Sculpture + Extended Media, where she began teaching in 2011. A new artist book will accompany her exhibition: You Are Here designed by Alex Gifreu + Ester Partegàs, published by CRU, Figueres and Barcelona, Spain; hardcover, 80 pages, price TBA.
Ester Partegàs: You Are Here is made possible in part by generous support from Keith Fabry Reprographic
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The Anderson Gallery is the exhibition facility for VCU’s top-ranked School of the Arts,
located at 907½ West Franklin Street, in Richmond, Virginia, on the university’s Monroe Park Campus.
For more information and directions, please visit our website: http://www.arts.vcu.edu/andersongallery
For a PDF of the press release, click here.
Image: LaToya Ruby Frazier, Momme Portrait Series (Shadow), 2008; gelatin silver photograph, 15½ x 19½ in. Brooklyn Museum, Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, 2011.63.2. © LaToya Ruby Frazier. Photo by LaToya Ruby Frazier.