Recent Articles

Categories

News

Sergei Mikhailovich, Girl with strawberries, 1909

Posted by Daylight Books on

image/jpeg icon

Read more →


Capt. S.E. Gregory, Aust. 1910

Posted by Daylight Books on

image/jpeg icon

Read more →


LaToya Ruby Frazier

Posted by Daylight Books on

image/jpeg icon

LaToya Ruby Frazier has worked for the last seven years unflinchingly documenting her relationship with her family, with a particular focus on her often difficult, yet loving relationship with her mother. The resulting photographic and video works are redolent, in both content and style, of the direct cinema of filmmakers like Frederick Weisman and Albert and David Maysles and the concerned photojournalism of Mary Ellen Mark and Eugene Richards. However, unlike her predecessors, Frazier makes a virtue of subjectivity, rather than attempting to exorcize it. She invites the viewer into her world, portraying the struggles of poverty, drug addiction, and male absence in the contemporary black family from the inside out.

My first foray into Frazier's world was through her series of videos, collectively titled A Mother to Hold (2006-2008), in which Frazier follows her mother with a shaky, handheld camera, recording their interactions and her mother's daily life. Made during periodic visits home to the impoverished neighborhood in Pittsburgh where she grew up, Frazier's videos show her mother cooking dinner and watching television, playing with her cat and clowning around dancing to Snoop Dogg and, memorably, to the Hues Corporation's "Rock the Boat." Tragically, her mother's routine is not always so pleasant.

Initially, Frazier uncomfortably laughs off her mother's behavior with a slightly chiding, slightly saddened voice, which leaks into the frame from just off camera. Her infinite patience is readily apparent, but it is equally clear that her equanimity often hides an ineluctable sense of helplessness. There is a sense that she remains in a painful double bind; tied to her mother and her mother's demons by her deep, abiding love, she finds it just as impossible to stay as she does to leave.  Perhaps it is this double bind that compels her to document: the camera allows her to remain close, but also keep her distance.

I get this sense from her photographs, which often have an air of benevolent detachment. In particular, it is instructive to look at the images in which she herself appears. When, for example, she photographs herself slumped on her bed, with one of her mother's boyfriends lounging on a mattress in the adjacent room (Me and Mr. Art, 2005), or depicts herself half-naked, seemingly having just been roused from sleep (Self Portrait (Oct. 7th 9:30 a.m.) 2008), there is a sense that the remove her self-scrutiny is tempered with is a necessary one. They are pictures in which her life appears like a strange gem, and she becomes just a lapidary, turning it in the light. It would be too painful otherwise.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s work will be featured as a part of the upcoming show The Generational: Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum of Contemporary Art  in New York. More of her work can be seen on her website.

 

Name index: 
Chris Wiley

Read more →


Eugene Von Bruenchenhein

Posted by Daylight Books on

image/jpeg icon

In Eugene Von Bruenchenhein's ramshackle suburban home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there hung a hand-incised metal plaque proclaiming his multifaceted identity:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Freelance Artist
Poet and Sculptor
Inovator 
Arrow maker and Plant man
Bone artifacts constructor
Photographer and Architect
Philosopher.

Sadly, these proclamations reached only a very select audience: his wife (and muse), Marie, and a small circle of friends and relatives. As far as the outside world was concerned, Von Bruenchenhein's plaque simply read:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Bakery Employee

Though undiscovered by the public until after his death, for forty years Von Bruenchenhein spent his time off from his bakery job immersed in the lives his plaque described: he painted apocalyptic landscapes and phantasmagorical beasts, sometimes using delicate brushes fashioned from Marie's hair; he created miniature thrones and spindly towers using TV dinner chicken bones and model airplane glue; he molded botanically inspired ceramics out of the clay from his backyard, and fired them in his oven; he wrote poems and kept journals of his philosophical musings. He also lovingly and obsessively photographed his wife, to whom he dedicated all of his work, leaving us with a touching document of their playful, imaginative private world.

Von Bruenchenhein's portraits of Marie have the same erotic charge and bracing intimacy as the more well-known photographic paeans of the past, from Charles Dodgson's tender (and, admittedly, slightly creepy) portraits of his child-muse Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote his Alice in Wonderland books, to Alfred Stieglitz's studies of Georgia O'Keeffe. But whereas Dodgson and Liddell played dress up, and Stieglitz and O'Keeffe worked to exude an austere, regal beauty, the Von Bruenchenheins summoned up a glittering fantasy world that was cobbled together out of supplies from their local five-and-dime. Here Marie became pinup and ingénue, jungle queen and dream Goddess; she inhabited a world of glamour and excitement alien to her surroundings, made manifest by the camera's lens.

Considered historically, the portraits can be seen to inhabit a space that gingerly straddles the line between modernist experimentation and cheesecake pin-up camp. Some of the photographs, such as the striking double exposure of Marie wearing a crown of Von Bruenchenhein's design, recall the surrealist photography of Man Ray, while others, with their raucous, clashing textiles, bring to mind the work of the eminent self-taught Malian portrait photographer Seydou Keïta and the post-impressionist painter Édouard Vuillard. Sometimes, however, there are gestures towards a more lowbrow pedigree: when the eroticism is amped up and Marie's costumes take a more fetishistic turn, it is hard not to think of the recently deceased pioneer of pin-up kink, Bettie Page.

Of course, as Von Bruenchenhein was creating his work in virtual isolation, coloring it with a litany of precedents seems beside the point. What is most important to recognize, particularly as the art world begins to slog through the aftermath of its most recent gilded age, is Von Bruenchenhein's unabashed passion, not just for his wife, but for the creation of a life that was rich with interest, wonder, and invention--no matter who was watching.

Name index: 
Chris Wiley

Read more →


New Posts

Posted by Daylight Books on

image/jpeg icon
Name index: 
Greg Stimac

Read more →