LaToya Ruby Frazier: Flint is Family
August 21 – December 14, 2019
In 2016, artist, activist, and MacArthur genius awardee LaToya Ruby Frazier spent five months living in Flint, Michigan with three generations of women–the poet Shea Cobb, her mother Renee, and daughter Zion–observing their day-to-day lives as they endured one of the most devastating ecological disasters in US history: the water crisis in their hometown. The artistic result of Frazier’s time there is reflected in the works presented in “Flint is Family.”
“Through photographs, videos, and text I use my artwork as a platform to advocate for others, the oppressed, the disenfranchised,” says Frazier. In “Flint is Family,” Frazier explores at the level of community, the effects of the water crisis in Flint–where black residents make up 54% of the population and 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. “When I encounter an individual or family facing inequality, I create visibility through images and story-telling to expose the violation of their rights.”
By portraying the daily struggles of the Cobb family, Frazier used a tight focus to create a story about the impact of a systemic problem disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. Citing the social documentary work of Gordon Parks’ and Ralph Ellison’s 1948 “Harlem is Nowhere”–which highlighted the social and economic effects of racism and segregation–as an influence, Frazier rejected the voyeuristic photographs that emerged from outside media sources and instead collaborated closely with her subjects through photographs, capturing intimate moments along with the myriad challenges the family faced without access to clean water.
LaToya Ruby Frazier (American b. 1982, Braddock, Pennsylvania) received her BFA in applied media arts from the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and her MFA in art photography from Syracuse University. She is the recipient of many awards and has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s MacArthur Fellows Program as well as the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations and recent exhibitions have included The Brooklyn Museum of Art; The Seattle Art Museum, The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; Musée des Arts Contemporains, Grand-Hornu, Belgium; CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France; Carré d’Art – musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, France; The Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh; and The August Wilson Center, Pittsburgh. Her work is included in celebrated international collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among others.