JJ Levine

Ariane De Blois
  • JJ Levine, Harry Pregnant 2015. Photo: © JJ Levine
  • JJ Levine, Harry and Joah 2016. Photo: © JJ Levine
  • JJ Levine, Self-Portrait with Joah 2016. Photo: © JJ Levine
  • JJ Levine, Switch 6, 2009. Photos: © JJ Levine
  • JJ Levine, Switch 3, 2009. Photos: © JJ Levine
  • JJ Levine, Alone Time 01. Photo: © JJ Levine
  • JJ Levine, Alone Time 02. Photo: © JJ Levine

Family

Montreal artist JJ Levine’s photographic work questions the roles traditionally associated with gender identity through an intimate exploration of queer domestic spaces. Family, Levine’s most recent project, concerns alternative family structures and, in his words, “radically reimagining parenthood.” Although certainly continuous with Switch and Alone Time, projects of his that use the performative body to explore gender construction and malleability, Family is still aesthetically and conceptually more in line with Queer Portraits. Woven around the artist’s community and significant relationships in Montreal, Queer Portraits brings together around a hundred portraits of friends, lovers, and relatives photographed over a nine-year period. With the birth of his child, Family has become an opportunity for Levine to develop a project around the nucleus of his own queer family, challenging heteronormative nuclear and strictly biological conceptions of parentage.

Photographs and 16 mm and Super-8 film, historically used to build popular family archives, here serve as an artistic medium not only to capture images of the artist’s family, but also to counter the invisibility of non-stereotypically conforming families in visual culture. Laden with quiet emotion, their colours saturated, these photographs feature various members of Levine’s chosen family, including some of his friends, their faces neutral, wearing no forced smile, gazing straight into the lens. Among the highlights of the project are Harry Pregnant 2015, which presents Levine’s partner, pregnant, bare-chested, a hand on his belly; Harry and Joah 2016, in which Harry cradles their child; and Self-Portrait with Joah 2016, which shows the artist feeding the baby. Like so many memories, these films of Joah’s birth and of the family at the beach or during a party, with their vintage look and their imagery, fill a void in the recent past — the absent snapshots of a queer family — while simultaneously conjuring the violence of this nonexistence.

[Translated from the French by Ron Ross]

Captions
Image 1: JJ Levine, Harry Pregnant 2015, from the series Family. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Image 2: JJ Levine, Harry and Joah 2016, from the series Family. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Image 3: JJ Levine, Self-Portrait with Joah 2016, from the seriesFamily. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Images 4-5: JJ Levine, Switch 6, from the series Switch, 2009. Photos: courtesy of the artist
Images 6-7: JJ Levine, Switch 3, from the series Switch, 2009. Photos: courtesy of the artist
Image 8: JJ Levine, Alone Time 01, from the series Alone Time. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Image 9: JJ Levine, Alone Time 02, from the series Alone Time. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Number: 
91

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