Family of Mine | Steve Bliss, Katrina d’Autremont & Jason Houston

MAIN GALLERY | 11.5.09 – 12.12.09

RayKo is proud to present a show that features the work of 3 artists who have been obsessively photographing their families for years. No cute kid pictures here. Instead, there are the documentary images of Jason Houston who works as a photojournalist and who spends most of his time on assignment for editorial and NGO clients. Houston turns his lens on his family and records what he sees a little differently. For instance, Easter, a few years back, his wife’s sister’s husband’s twin brother showed up dressed in a well-worn, day-rental bunny costume. To assure none of the kids knew who it was, he was completely mute behind the screen hidden in the buck-toothed plastic grin for the entire time he was there.

Houston’s photographs of family events are spontaneous, mutely observant, and never staged. Blood, love, and obligation draw them together in a place where worldviews mix, match, confuse, and clash. As an embed in this intimate, interpersonal world, he documents his particular and familiar reality and explores the sometimes tense dichotomies that define American family life. Houston then prints these images as 30×40” color prints, the exact opposite of the 4×6” family snapshot.

Katrina d’Autremont’s body of work, ” Si Dios Quiere…” (If God Wants) explores issues of intimacy and distance within her mother’s family in Argentina. The house where she grew up and the people who are part of that life serve as characters. The environment becomes a set for the photographic staging of the images. It reveals how a place can influence and form us. The word “Family” connects us, but the extent of our connection depends on several factors. Families can be separated by physical distance, but often it is more complicated and the relationships themselves form walls and separations. “Si Dios Quiere…”which means “If God Wants,” attests to the fact that relationships are inherently difficult. Closer proximity to the people we love can be just as complex as distance. Within the family structure, specific roles are developed over time. We idealize these roles and the people who fill them, as well as the places that hold us.

d’Autremont’s color images have a palette that makes us believe she is in Argentina with William Eggleston in the early 1970’s. The photographs look like dye transfer prints even though they are c-prints. The timelessness of the color makes us unsure if these images are contemporary or vintage, and also make us romanticize the people and the place even further. Family pictures that are seductive as well as challenging…

And finally, “Boyland”. For this series, Steve Bliss has committed to shooting the 8×10” camera whose clarity and beauty still seems to outshine most digital possibilities. Bliss makes giant negatives of his small boys. As a father, photographing his sons has come about in the most natural of ways. Like most parents, Bliss has an inherent, perhaps genetic interest in recording the fleeting states of his children’s development. As a practicing photographer, however, he is also keenly interested in the formal play within the frame: color, placement, gesture, comparison, proximity, and in projected narrative, sequence and environment.

The boys, Aidan and Griffin, are quintessential/typical examples of their gender whom Bliss loves dearly… However, their characters are not something he set out to expose. Believing in few theories of art (if any), it is his estimation that the prototypical portraiture myth of revealing persona in images is just that: a myth. The artist’s sons function in these images as ciphers or symbols: ones that probably represent the photographer himself more than the boys themselves. These photographs attempt to communicate one person’s remembrances of boyhood rituals, stages, interactions and expectations. For Bliss, that’s plenty; it’s more than enough.