Family dynamics and the melodrama of domestic life figure prominently in the field of contemporary art. This exhibition focuses on artists’ portrayals of members of their own families, presenting photography and video works made during the last ten years by artists active in North America, Europe, and Asia. Allowing a glimpse into the daily lives of the individuals behind the cameras, these videos and photographs reveal that family matters are never simply personal, but inevitably encompass broader historical, social, and economic concerns. The family settings are used to investigate an array of contemporary issues, including the impact of war and financial hardship (dealt with by Yasser Aggour and Mitch Epstein, for example), the power of gender and ethnic stereotypes (Gillian Wearing, Sanford Biggers, Jennifer Zacklin), and changing marital and generational roles (Janine Antoni, Malerie Marder).
These artists offer a multi-layered representation of the family as a social institution rich with emotional associations and historical precedents. The approaches they employ include practices inspired by documentary and staged photography, as well as Conceptual art and Performance art. Presenting scenarios of emotional closeness as well as failed connection, they explore undercurrents of ambivalence, conflict, fantasy, and eroticism. The works featured here shed light on the formation of each individual’s physical, cultural, and sexual identity or, in some cases, the values and traits they have passed along to families of their own. Diverse, imaginatively incisive, and visually compelling, these works transform that most familiar artifact—the family photograph—into an illuminating investigation of contemporary culture.