- Self Portrait (United States Steel)
iMOCA (Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art), through May 19
In this show LaToya Ruby Frazier - a young African-American woman who grew up in Braddock, Pennsylvania - uses black-and-white film photography to document her family and their surroundings. (Her work is concurrently on view at the 2012 Whitney Biennale.) Their surroundings just so happen to be a post-industrial city with a fraught history of black and white racial relations.
Frazier's photograph "Welcome to Historic Braddock," takes its name from a sign that served as her subject. This photo hangs adjacent to a portrait revealing herself naked from the waist up, with a prominent tattoo on her lower belly. She looks vulnerable here, but not particularly welcoming in a municipal-booster-friendly kind of way. You often find stark juxtapositions between the photographs in this show. You can also find them within the same photographs. In "Me and Mom's Boyfriend Mr. Art" you see Frazier sitting on a bed in one room and her mom's boyfriend relaxing in the other.
In another photograph, you see a caption on an outdoor mural reading "The World is Yours." It's hard not to read this ironically, considering the blighted urban setting. But Frazier has an eye for beauty in these photos too. And in her short video loop, where you see a nude Frazier side by side with a U.S Steel Plant - you see her breathing in what the plant fumes out - indicates that this brave and uncompromising artist is equally adept in multiple forms of media.
Also check out Tony Buba's documentary featuring interviews with 70 African-American steelworkers about their struggles with institutionalized racism.