Gillian Laub "Family Matters" @ International Center of Photography
For the last two decades, American artist Gillian Laub has used the camera to investigate how society’s most complex questions are often writ large in our most intimate relationships. Her focus on family, community and human rights is clear in projects such as Testimony, which explores the lives of terror survivors in the Middle East, and Southern Rites, a decade-long project about racism in the American South.
Throughout her career, she has been simultaneously, and privately, documenting the emotional, psychological, and political landscape of her own family—exploring her growing discomfort with the many extravagances that marked their lives. Intense intergenerational bonds have shaped and nurtured Laub, but have also been fraught. Balancing empathy with critical perspective, humor with horror, the closeness of family with the distance of the artist, Laub offers a picture of an American family saga that feels both anguished and hopeful.
As it moves through time, the exhibition becomes a microcosm of a deeply conflicted nation, as the artist and her parents find themselves on opposing sides of a sharp political divide—threatening to fracture the family and forcing everyone to ask what, in the end, really binds them together.
In her book Family Matters, her photographs are accompanied by her own words. This exhibition at the International Center of Photography showcases her gifts as a storyteller, with much of the writing presented as immersive sound. Moving through the four sequential “acts” of Family Matters, you will see and hear the artist and her family in their own words: funny, poignant, troubled, and challenging.