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 (2007), which explores the lives of terror survivors in the Middle East, and Southern Rites (2015), 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 (Aperture, 2021), her photographs are accompanied by her own words. This exhibition 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.
About the Artist
Gillian Laub, @gigilaub
Gillian Laub (b. 1975) is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York. She received a B.A. in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, before studying photography at the International Center of Photography. Laub has spent the last two decades investigating political conflicts, exploring family relationships, and challenging assumptions about cultural identity. Her works include the book Testimony (Aperture, 2007) and the book and HBO film Southern Rites (2015). Laub received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in 2019. Her work is collected internationally and included in the public collections of the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire; International Center of Photography, New York; Jewish Museum, New York; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among other institutions. She continues to contribute to many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. Laub is represented by Benrubi Gallery in New York.
A companion book, Gillian Laub: Family Matters, was published by Aperture in September 2021. With more than eighty images, accompanied by a personal account of the artist’s life in her own words, the book offers a compelling picture of the fractures in contemporary American society, in a subversively funny and gut-wrenchingly familiar way. 228 pages, 85 four-color images. Clothbound. ISBN 978-1-59711-491-2. US $50.00 / CDN $65.00 / UK £40.00.
This exhibition is available for tour. If you are interested in finding out about availability or to reserve a slot on the tour, please contact [email protected]
The Contemporary Jewish Museum | San Francisco, CA
October 13, 2022–April 9, 2023