5 Art Stars You Need to Know: LaToya Ruby Frazier 

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Portraits by Joe Hume


The Whitney Biennial may only jumpstart the careers of one or two artists per show, but we’re betting LaToya Ruby Frazier will be one of them. That is, if her career even needs it; before being invited to the Whitney, her photographic and performance work had been shown at most major contemporary museums in the city, including MoMA PS1, The New Museum, and The Bronx Museum. She was also the subject of an Art:21 documentary in 2011 and has been reviewed positively by literally every major media outlet in the city save New York Magazine.

These are no small shakes for a 30-year-old artist, and they accurately reflect the strength of her work. Frazier, who was born and raised in Braddock, Pennsylvania, uses her family and hometown as subject matter for her intimate black and white photographs. In a project she began as a teenager, her best-known images depict figures who seem either badly emotionally scarred or barely surviving. This is particularly clear in the shots of her ailing grandmother, but also in a dishevelled self-portrait shot topless. At the very least, Frazier does not look happy.

“I always resented the fact that I was forced to leave my hometown for a better education and job opportunities,” she told us, before launching into a discussion about how the loss of industry and blue-collar jobs have affected cities across the country and abroad. Her latest work focuses on the loss of the Braddock hospital, a medical center torn down because it could not make a profit. Frazier did not mention her own illness, lupus, which adds another macabre layer to her newest work. [Q and A and slideshow, after the jump.]

ALL ART STARS | Artie Vierkant | Christopher Chiappa | Sarah Braman | Virginia Overton

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