Family Album – Tim Roda
ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present “Family Album”, the second solo show by gallery artist Tim Roda. Featuring seven black and white photographs that depict the artist and his son in a series of carefully staged vignettes, the exhibition offers an exemplary selection of Roda’s critically lauded work. The photos read as fragments of an ongoing domestic theatre, teasing viewers with the promise of biographical information yet withholding any clear sense of understanding. Like excerpts torn from a darkly absurd family album, the images are by turns comical, haunting and perplexing, offering hints of personal truth smuggled into symbolically charged images. The works on view do not immediately present themselves as ‘realistic’ or as having been photographed from life. Rather they announce their construction, whether it’s through their rough-hewn material presentation or the ramshackle appearance of the settings and props found in the images. With the exception of Untitled #150, each photograph is set in Roda’s studio, which variously doubles as a bedroom, a kitchen, or simply a dank industrial space. There is no attempt to outright deceive the viewer into believing these are actual moments caught on celluloid. The scenes instead feel designed to convey the essence of a memory, where past and present are blended together. A scene like Untitled # 136, for instance, might read as a reconstruction of a holiday-time memory for Roda as an adult or as a child. We are never quite certain who is who in this picture. Are the artist and his son playing themselves? Or are they one generation removed, with Roda playing his own father and his son acting as a younger version of the artist? This ambiguity is further enhanced by the old-fashioned bed frames and wood-paneling backdrop, which give the impression of a ‘room’ without feeling like a real place. Indeed, the ‘room’ seems more a suggestion of an interior—a psychological space, almost—where old objects, animals symbols and Christian motifs intermingle to create a magical, timeless atmosphere. The expression on Roda’s face contributes to the overall sense of confusion, as if this scene represents a memory (or score of memories) that Roda could never quite figure out for himself. As with much of Roda’s work, the shoddy interior in this photograph draws upon his eccentric working-class upbringing in an Italian immigrant family. If his work has a mongrel, Do-It-Yourself feel, it’s because the artist is harkening back to family tradition. Roda remembers his grandfather building the family home from recycled materials from their chicken coop, and his father building a garage from other reusable materials. What seems DIY in Roda’s work is in fact a nod to this family legacy, when DIY was less fashionably known as economic privation. Knowledge of Roda’s personal history goes some way to understanding the meaning of his photographs, but it does not give all the answers. For example, knowing the poverty of his childhood, what are we to make of Untitled #150, which shows the artist and his son in a Mercedes? Is this a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the scarcity of his boyhood, a picture of the affluent boyhood-that-never-was? Is it a send-up of his present day circumstances as an artist on the rise? Or does it in some way represent a genuine longing for a more comfortable lifestyle, a longing made all the more poignant due the economic hardship he suffered in his youth? It’s clear that Roda’s work is not easy to pin down, but this is what makes it so compelling. Where other artists might strive to relate a literal sense of personal history and fail due to their earnestness, Roda merely drops hints of himself to keep us guessing. In some way, perhaps this approach is more true to life, where one’s sense of self more closely resembles a jumble of half-remembered memories that vie for attention in the psyche. It is easy to forgive the playfulness and occasional trickery of a Roda photograph, if only because he seems to forgive the personal pain and perplexity sometimes suggested in his own work. With recent acquisitions by the Essl Collection in Austria and the Hessel Foundation at Bard College Museum, as well as a favorable review in Art in America for his Seattle show at Greg Kucera gallery, Roda continues to earn critical acclaim for his growing body of work. He is profiled in Modern Painter magazine in the spring of 2008, and has shows slated for Art Agents in Hamburg, Germany, Ferenbalm–Gurbruestation, Germany and the Whatcom Museum of Art, Seattle. He has shown his work nationally as well as internationally in Toronto, Seattle, Hamburg, Moscow, Chicago, Las Vegas, Poland, New York and most recently Vienna, Austria. He holds an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle.