O'Born Contemporary


I Am My Family

Rafael Goldchain, Solo Exhibition

April 18 – May 30, 2009

exhibition text

Rafael Goldchain has a reputation as a photographer of historical events, rewarded and recognized for his documents of moments of significance and the people who occupy them.

At first glance the photographs in 'I Am My Family' seem to echo his earlier works, we see an album comprised of apparently traditional black and white portraits but on second glance we are treated to the nod and wink of knowing that the traditions of both photo and family histories have been slyly subverted. Goldchain has addressed the provocations of the photograph as memory and truth device, and he has done so while using himself as the human canvas for the construction of many possible identities. He has created avatars and digital revenants structured on fragments that initially began with Goldchain posing in full costume and makeup to portray his extended family. Familial resemblances have been finessed through the use of traditional makeup, styling and props as well as digital darkroom techniques, the end result is a motley collection of individuals who may or may not have existed, who may or may not share any common heritage beyond the musings and intentional manipulations of the artist. Goldchain's audience must shift their thinking dramatically as they meander through this gallery of rogues and beauties, geeks and philosophers, aged, young, handsome, beautiful. The personae created in the space in front of the camera belong to a different sort of fiction, woven from a golden thread of the artist's DNA, and are the product of considerable historical research and conceptual rigour. However, as with any one can never rely on the family historian to be telling the entire truth and we linger over each document, inspecting the traces in hopes of seeing a resemblance, unsure as to which members of his chosen family are post-production fabrications, manipulated in spirit as well as flesh.

At times one can barely recognize the slightest trace of the self he has chosen to portray in these ambiguous tokens of memory and digital data. We imagine our own family in the postures and glances, yet Goldchain remains; he is his model of choice. The family he shares with us has ultimately become potential links in a shared human history. Prompted by the artifice used in his invocation of bloodlines to think about a collective history of fragments, be it of skin, bone, class, culture, we are enriched by pondering links of a deeper lineage beyond than those of naming alone.

P Elaine Sharpe – March 2009