by Andrew Russeth

Bringing It Home: A Q&A with LaToya Ruby Frazier



NEW YORK In a video on display in MoMA P.S.1‘s “Greater New York” survey, a young woman stares directly at the camera. She is topless and breathing heavily. In a video frame to her right, brilliant white smoke billows out of an anonymous factory, engulfing some of the small houses that sit in front of it. This continues for a little more than three minutes, the video ends, and then begins again.

The subject and the maker of the video are the same: Pittsburgh-born artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, whose appearance in the survey marks the latest in a string of high-profile museum shows, at the Mattress Factory, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New Museum, where she showed emotionally-charged portraits of her family and herself in “Younger Than Jesus,” the museum’s new triennial devoted to young artists.

The video is called “Self Portrait (United States Steel),” and the factory it shows is the U.S. Steel mill in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Frazier’s hometown, which has been the subject of much of her work. The piece is classic Frazier: filled with beautiful images, created through an economy of means, which are cut through with personal pain, sociopolitical implications, and art historical references that stretch from the portraiture of Seydou Keita to the still lifes of Irving Penn.


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