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HomeEntertainmentArtFred Lonidier’s Drily Humorous Works Channel Political Power through Conceptual Art

Fred Lonidier’s Drily Humorous Works Channel Political Power through Conceptual Art

Called to testify in a 1981 lawsuit introduced by a San Diego transit staff union in opposition to Aztec Bus Lines, photographer Fred Lonidier discovered himself explaining the funds of his artwork observe. The goal of his testimony was to interpret some footage he had taken of hanging bus drivers to assist decide whether or not the strikers had impeded entry to a bus depot. The lawyer for Aztec requested whether or not he’d been paid by the union, and Lonidier stated that he had not, that every one the bills got here out of his personal pocket. “I’m not engaged in a commercial endeavor in a straightforward sense,” he stated. “I’m an artist. If my work ever sells, which it rarely does, it’s in a museum, a gallery, to a private collector…. Only on a very rare occasion does anyone ever buy a photograph from me.” 

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Such events, it appears, are much less uncommon now than they had been in 1981. Over the course of 5 many years, Lonidier has produced an unlimited and idiosyncratic physique of labor, principally as a participant-observer in North American labor struggles. During the previous decade, that work has appeared not sometimes in modish galleries and Kunsthallen, a far cry from the union halls, libraries, and universities the place he beforehand exhibited (a reality usually recited within the press releases and bios issued by his new urbane venues). Not that anybody may begrudge him this current artwork world embrace, however it’s exhausting to disregard a sure dissonance between the content material and context, between pictures of organizing staff and a market that could be a image of their antagonists.  

Lonidier reproduced his testimony within the multi-panel photo-text set up AZTEC VS A.T.U. 1309: Long Ago In A Faraway Galaxy (1996), included in his current exhibition at Michael Benevento in Los Angeles, a profession sampler that comprised principally lesser-known or never-before-exhibited works. Eighteen prints of the hanging staff accompany as many panels of blown-up textual content from the artist’s testimony embellished with graphic design: highlighted passages, circled phrases and faces, and contours connecting bits of textual content and picture. Annotations in a goofy faux-handwritten font say issues like proof!; elsewhere, Lonidier calls his personal testimony into query: so I say! amends a proof of a selected image. He appears to thrill in the best way the staid courtroom examination—with questions on his place relative to his topics, how we will know what {a photograph} actually exhibits or means—echoes the bugaboos of photoconceptualism. 

View of Fred Lonidier, 2022–23, at Michael Benevento.

Photo Benjamin Turner/Courtesy Michael Benevento

Lonidier has often employed this photo-text format in analyzing office accidents or the ravages of NAFTA. Examples on view right here are usually anecdotal: in 3 Art Talks (1975), he relates, amongst different experiences, trying to take an image at a Lee Friedlander lecture, earlier than the well-known photographer known as Lonidier out for forgetting to take away his lens cap; a contact sheet with a black body, adopted by the again of a bald head, illustrates the incident. His is a charmingly informal, even artless strategy to picture, design, and language. We can see this anti-, or novice, aesthetic as a device for demystification of the type that animated numerous college students and academics on the University of California, San Diego within the early Seventies. The group included Lonidier, who obtained his MFA and joined the college in 1972, in addition to Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula. Galvanized by the anti-war and feminist actions, they sought to reconcile social documentary pictures’s political engagement with Conceptualism’s scrutiny of the manufacturing and circulation of pictures. 

The different key physique of labor on this present comes out of Lonidier’s revisiting of his huge archive, a lot of it recording scholar activism and an environment of experimentation from these early San Diego days. More intimate, Female Photo Resistance II (2022) is a video slideshow dedicated to an unnamed topic who seems to be a photograph scholar and Lonidier’s girlfriend. We see her in school, putting in a present, mendacity in mattress, and sitting on the bathroom as intertitles narrate the ability dynamic of artist and muse: “She didn’t like me to photograph her.” The self-criticism, tongue-in-cheek from the beginning, disappears in a profusion of pictures. A salient intuition in Lonidier’s artwork is to create space for irony and folly alongside severe political dedication.

Two rows of photographs depict the same woman with long hair posed in different clothing in front of a house, standing in the grass.

Fred Lonidier: Female Photo Resistance II, 2022, video, 14 minutes 13 seconds.

Courtesy Michael Benevento

Lonidier’s levity is hanging as a result of it’s so at odds with the expectations of the activist-artist, and since his work, possibly regardless of itself, can also be tragic. His profession has coincided with a sustained bipartisan assault on American staff and the evisceration of the labor motion he has portrayed. The decline in union membership for the reason that early Seventies has accelerated the barbaric inequalities in wealth and revenue which have been such a boon to the marketplace for modern artwork and the establishments it sustains.  



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