Filter Photo is pleased to present American Backyard, a solo exhibition of photographs by Elliot Ross.
Among many, many other things, the post-election political climate of 2017 offered a stark context for confronting cultural difference within the United States. In many ways a crucible, it suddenly brought into high focus the integrating and fragmenting processes that bind this country together—and then divide it again—to form new ideological patterns or lapse back to old ones. The U.S.-Mexico border is one such facet of the revolving national psyche. As an issue, it tends to resurface at fashionable times for nationalism, isolationism, and xenophobia. America’s Backyard is a concept often used to refer to the international sphere of influence of the United States, particularly with regard to Latin America. Over the last century, the U.S. government has made multiple pushes to secure its border with Mexico—an impulse triggered by perceived threats to American society such as immigration, communism, the AIDS epidemic, and turmoil in South America. Despite enormous changes in our social makeup, cultural attitudes, and demography, the border keeps creeping back into our national dialogue
Meanwhile, the cultural institution of the “backyard” in postwar American society is a strong symbol of the nation’s desire for freedom through private domain, security, and domestic prosperity. Despite enormous changes in our social makeup, cultural attitudes, and demography, a commonly held aspiration for U.S. citizens (and immigrants) is to have a property of one’s own to put a fence around.
Through an amalgam of portraiture and topographical studies of infrastructure imposed on the landscape, American Backyard looks at the reality of American lives on the border. Various cultural and political processes, which may be ambiguous elsewhere in the country, are amplified at the border. In an environment where the movement of both people and goods are vigilantly regulated, examined, and controlled, and where Federal laws regularly don’t apply, questions of social injustice and discrimination are matters of resounding consequence. Beyond talk of The Wall, there is a larger, less transparent story to be told about our Borderlands to do with creolization, acculturation, surveillance, diversity, and compassion.
Copies of the corresponding publication, American Backyard, which features essays by Genevieve Allison, will be available for purchase at the opening reception.
Elliot Ross is a Colorado-based artist and portrait photographer. Born in Taipei, Taiwan (1990), his interest for the photographic medium, rural frontiers, and underserved communities developed during his upbringing on a homestead in Northeast Colorado. His recent work investigates the divisive nature and social repercussions of geopolitical borders including the plight of refugees seeking asylum on Greek islands and ongoing work in the marginalized communities of the U.S. / Mexico borderlands. He holds a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been internationally shown and published, with notable appearances in National Geographic Magazine, The Guardian, Vice and The Atlantic.
Genevieve Allison is a writer and artist whose work focuses on the intersection of issues concerning environment, land use, community, art, and politics. She has an MFA from The University of Auckland, New Zealand, and has exhibited internationally alongside artists such as Gerhard Richter and Katharina Grosse. In New York City, she worked in art book publishing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and contributed to projects for Rizzoli and Paul Chan’s imprint Badlands Unlimited. In addition to her work as an art journalist and critic for Artforum and Aperture, her writing appears in notable publications such as Time, Vice and The Collective Quarterly
Image: Elliot Ross