Photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier is among the 34 people named United States Artists fellows for 2014. The awards, announced on October 13, 2014, come with an unrestricted prize worth $50,000. The “United States Artists” (USA) program is described as investing in “the fundamental value artists contribute to American society.” The organization is funded by individuals and philanthropic groups such as the Bloomberg and Knight Foundations. This year, 16 women and 18 men were selected from among 116 nominated artists; awards were given in architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and visual arts.
Frazier, who was selected for PDN‘s 30 2012, released her first book, The Notion of Family, published by Aperture Foundation in September. In it, she tells the story of the racism and economic decline of small-town America through the lens of three generations of her family—herself, her mother, and her grandmother—in her hometown of Braddock, PA. In April 2014, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship. She has held academic and curatorial positions at Yale, Rutgers and Syracuse.
Since it was founded in 2006, the program has given $19.1 million to 405 artists. Past visual arts recipients who work in lens-based media include Luis Camnitzer, William Leavitt, Kerry Tribe and Lorraine O’Grady. A complete list of winners can be found at www.unitedstatesartists.org/2014fellows.
Guggenheim Fellows receive a grant to pursue a project; the Foundation does not disclose the amount of money they receive.
Founded in 1922, the prestigious Fellowship program is intended to “add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding.” The Fellowship supports individuals in mid-career‚ “who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”
Past recipients of Guggenheim Fellowships include photographers Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Brian Ulrich, Richard Mosse, Alec Soth, Christian Patterson and Penelope Umbrico.
In this short program for State of the Arts, a New Jersey public television series produced by PCK Media, LaToya Ruby Frazier talks about her introduction to photography and about the work she is showing in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, including a performance piece that will debut on Friday, May 11.
Says Whitney Biennial co-curator Jay Sanders, “Her work embodies the history of documentary photography, photography that articulates social conditions, that articulates the reality of working people, but at the same time she’s very well read and embedded in a dialogue coming out of conceptual art.”
At this year’s LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, VA, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier made her intentions as an artist and activist clear in a powerful presentation of her work that combined diaristic snippets about her relationships with her grandmother and mother with stories about the community of Braddock, PA, where she was raised. Frazier’s reading, reminiscent of a prose poem, was intensely personal, heartfelt and, at times, forceful and defiant, drawing on the history of Braddock as a once-prosperous steel town, and on its current state where poverty, joblessness and pollution-related health issues plague the largely African-American population.
Frazier’s work has previously been included in high-profile group exhibitions such as the 2009 Triennial at The New Museum and a 2010 group exhibition at PS1 MoMA, and she has had solo and two-person shows at her gallery, Higher Pictures in New York, and elsewhere. The work she has presented thus far has been comprised primarily of self-portraits and portraits of her grandmother and mother, whom Frazier taught to photograph and considers a collaborator. Yet the full breadth of her work and her ambition for it has not been widely known, she says.
“Until I spoke today, I don’t think people were aware of what the work was about, because it’s complicated,” Frazier told PDN after her Master’s Talk. “Today was a huge breakthrough to be able to come here and talk to people.” (more…)