Tim Roda – Famiglia Lavanderia / Family Laundry
That we all grew up in families, unless we were orphans, is a fact that both reveals and conceals the strange space of its conceptual possibility. And that we are familiar with many things does not necessarily mean that we know them. In the work of Tim Roda, the son of an eccentric working-class upbringing in an Italian immigrant family, these paradoxes concerning the familiarity’s strangeness are given substance in quirky, quizzical, and hard-to-classify ways that engage, provoke, and even bewilder the imagination through the medium of black and white photography. Tim’s photographs echo the powers of representation most succinctly summarized by Barthes who said that the photo captures the ‘has been.’ In Roda’s hands the sense of the ‘has been’ has the most perplexing overtones. Take a look at Untitled #173, a surrealist masterpiece. The long suffering son, to judge by the look in his eyes, is sitting on the sofa wrapped in what appears to be a striped Indian blanket with his mother leaning over, her neck and hand stretched out, as if to comfort him for agreeing to take up this patently ridiculous pose, with the artist father behind him holding up a gramophone over his head. In front we see the younger child in diapers, peering up at older brother, unaware of the peculiar position his father has put him in. What does it all mean? Perhaps the mother is there to comfort, her presence the salve and balm of a trouble soul steadying its descent into madness which is equally the ascent onto higher levels of creativity. Is that the paradox, the gramophone, this oversized ear which in early advertisements had the picture of a dog with the words ‘listening to the sound of the master?’ Are we so deaf? Is that why the artist has to appear so absurd to make acutely aware of how much we look but rarely see anything at all? In Centaur where Tim is literally the centaur’s behind and his puzzled son, the front, with odd poles in hand and to the side, more material is provided for thought. In Untitled #181 a lone female figure, distinguished by her white shirt stands before a mausoleum-like building or temple, the image taken by a curved fish-bowl lens. In Us Against Them we have an image of an immobile tank, a museum piece, useless in actual combat, proclaiming family identity, and more directly mocking the conventional demarcations of reality. In Untitled #119 we have a baffling tableau of the father with outrageously outstretched arms towards his young son, half in shadow with his back away from him, greeting our eyes. In Untitled #180 we have a ‘horror story’ of immensely entertaining and bizarre stage effects with all sorts of mechanical contrivances masking the father’s face. Curiously, the son is left untouched, sitting with folded arms and his head to the side – as if pondering the inanity lying right at the edge of normality and against which this comforting zone of the predictable is defined. Is the artist father giving his son lessons in life about the edges of sanity? Is this complex of sanity, normalcy, and well-behaved society a sort of fiction? Surely, the artist is telling us in the gallery, the moment of our encountering him, that ‘art’ and ‘madness’ are not confined to this space. ARTIST BIOGRAPHY Tim Roda – Tim received his MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle, and is currently based in New York. He has shown widely in solo exhibitions across the United States and in Europe. His first solo exhibition in New York in 2006 garnered an excellent reception, and his work has been collected into numerous important collections including the Elton John Collection, Bard College Museum/Hessel Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Essl Collection, Austria and many more. He has been a guest lecturer at the D.U.M.B.O. Arts Center, NY and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago. He has also been featured in Artforum, Modern Painters and Art Review.