The 'Family Pictures' exhibit seeks out the overlooked moments in familial life. It’s been fittingly tucked into the basement of the Milwaukee Art Museum, out of immediate sight, but carries a striking impact for those willing to look.
They look like the kind of images that might get shared on Facebook or double-tapped on Instagram, but are seldom seen in a fine art museum. But by placing hundreds of these moments next to each other, Curator Lisa Sutcliffe manages to depict the trends of American family life through the lens of a Kodak, and through the lens of black photographers’ definitions of family.
At the Milwaukee Art Museum through Jan. 20, 2019 in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts (lower level)
Family Pictures, which was originally organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, juxtaposes joyous family photos (like Carrie Mae Weems’s canvas of 50-plus people being conducted into frame by an uncle for a family reunion souvenir photo) with moments of vulnerability and intimacy (like nude portraits from Brooklyn-based John Edmonds).
As the MAM describes it, “Family Pictures explores the ways in which black photographers and artists have portrayed a range of familial relationships, from blood relatives to close-knit neighborhoods to queer communities.”
Throughout the exhibit, we’re reminded of the photos that Mom still hangs on her wall, and also the ones you save hidden away. We’re reminded that kids aren’t always good at looking at the camera, that the cameraperson usually isn’t ready when somebody laughs and Grandma isn’t always smiling while she smokes her Pall Malls.
These juxtapositions are best established through Lyle Ashton Harris’s “The Ektachrome Archives,” which premiered in São Paolo in 2016.
In a smallish, underlit room in a corner of the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, three projectors click through sequences that include beautifully balanced compositions of grown men bathing, cheery wedding guests, blurry figures frozen as they put on t-shirts, men in lipstick, a tasteful picture of a woman walking nude on a beach, and still frames of clothing drying on a clothesline.
“The Ektachrome Archives,” along with the rest of Family Pictures, reflect what our lives look like when we aren’t looking.
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On November 29, visit Family Pictures with distinguished local guests, including Judge Joe Donald, Cecelia Gore from the Brewers Community Foundation, and Reginald Jackson from America’s Black Holocaust Museum. They will offer new perspectives for understanding the works on view, beginning at 6:15 p.m. http://ow.ly/BEc530mAQTS Image: Deana Lawson, Ringbearer, 2016. Inkjet print. Collection of Preethi Krishna & Ram Sundaram, Courtesy of Christina Shearman Art Advisory.
DON’T MISS: Conversations
- Meet Photographer John Edmonds and Curator Lisa Sutcliffe in the Lubar Auditorium at 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2019 — free for MAM members and included with museum admission for non-members.
- There will also be a Gallery Talk event five days later on Jan. 15, 2019 at 1:30 p.m., again featuring Edmonds and Sutcliffe.