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Public Life: Home and the people who live there

Februrary 20–May 30, 2021

Citlali Fabián, Anton Gautama, Daniel Handal, Krista Svalbonas

Home and the people who live there is a meditation on the concepts of home and community, featuring artists included in the FotoFest 2020 Biennial exhibition Ten by Ten: Ten Reviewers Select Ten Portfolios from the Meeting Place 2018. For the artists, home is not simply a place, but rather a space of belonging, where the intimate and personal are the fabric of everyday life. The artists turn their lenses toward the various aspects that comprise the architecture of such a place: personal histories, friendships, kinships through community, support and acceptance.

For her series Mestiza (2014–18), artist Citlali Fabián created collaborative portraits with women from her inner circle, her mother, relatives, and friends as a way to explore their identity and ancestral heritage. To create these portraits, Fabián utilized a nineteenth-century photographic process known as ambrotype in order to confront and challenge the colonial photographic histories that seek to capture and contain indigenous narratives, identities, and culture. Home Sweet Home (2016–17) by Anton Gautama is a documentary photographic series comprised of interior views of the live/work spaces of Indo-Chinese migrant families living in Southeast Asia. Gautama’s works highlight the ways in which a migrant’s diasporic traditions become enmeshed with national identity by drawing attention to domestic spaces where commercial business is conducted and that are filled with both Chinese and Indonesian artifacts, décor, and cultural objects. Gautama’s images ask the viewer to consider how these spaces reflect the lives of those who dwell in them and the ways cultural identity is formed and reformed by migration. Daniel Handal’s colorful series Pajaritos (2016–18) borrows its name from a pejorative term used in Latin America to demean and belittle the queer community by referring to gay men as “birdies.” Handal rejects the derogatory nature of this expression in Pajaritos, reclaiming the word as an expression of endearment through his photographic portraits of dazzling tropical songbirds positioned against pastel hues of pinks, blues, yellows, and greens. Handal’s treatment of the songbirds accentuates each bird’s unique features and prideful posture to suggest that these exceptional differences are essential components of a beautiful and powerful community. Artist Krista Svalbonas’s series What Remains (2020–) is comprised of black and white architectural photographs of Soviet-era residential buildings in Latvia and Lithuania overlain with traditional Baltic textile patterns. Weaving these patterns was an important and defiant act during Soviet occupation, done despite the regime’s attempts to suppress Baltic cultures. By juxtaposing the textile patterns with Soviet structures, Svalbonas proposes that the forced imposition of politically-motivated cultural ideology is oppressive, leaving little room for personal and traditional expression. For the artist, the textiles are a reminder of the ways in which those who are forced to live within strict political boundaries can resist hegemony and hold on to their personal cultural identities.

Home and the people who live there offers an opportunity to reflect on themes of domestic life, community, and place at a time when these concepts have been redefined by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The exhibition features four photo-murals from each of the above-mentioned series.

Krista Svalbonas, What Remains, 2021. Installation view at FotoFest, Houston, TX. Commissioned by FotoFest, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Inman Gallery, Houston, TX