Project Series 23: Allan DeSouza: The Lost Pictures
Allan deSouza’s past photographic and sculptural work examined relationships among architecture, the body, dislocation, landscape, memory, and vision. In images of fabricated miniature landscapes and public, architectural spaces deSouza constructed fictional narratives that examine the role of memory and history in the formation of racial and sexual identities. In this new photographic series, deSouza continues his exploration in a deeply personal way. The Lost Pictures are based on childhood snapshots and informed by his meditations on memory that grew from his mother’s death in 2003.
In The Lost Pictures deSouza returned to the slides his father had taken during the artist’s childhood in Nairobi, Kenya. He scanned and printed the images and then taped them onto various surfaces around his home. In these intimate, domestic spaces, the images became marked by mundane daily activity—working in the kitchen, showering, brushing teeth, etc.—and coated with bodily fluids, dust, food, hair, and toothpaste. He scanned the worn and marred images and manipulated them in the computer, before printing the final, large-scale photographs. His method superimposes the scrim of daily life on the image, emphasizing the surface and obscuring the family photographs hovering behind. DeSouza worked with other photographs of his mother in a more directly active, laborious way, using digital Photoshop tools to erase and etch minute lines over every inch of the surface, making concrete and physical the act of remembering his mother.
The sculpture in the exhibition, House, also conflates the physical and metaphysical acts of memory and nostalgia, and reinforces his explicit connection to constructing narratives. The artist built a scale model of his childhood home in Kenya from memory, burned the exterior, and gradually covered the remains in layers of wax and detritus—hair, dust, scraps, and bodily fluids. Over time, he carved into these accretions, excavating the house, and exposing surfaces and accumulated materials.
In The Lost Pictures deSouza reflects on the process of photography and memory. The work—its fabrication, effacement, and excavation—links both the internal and external processes of memory and forgetting. Through his emphasis on the process of photography and of memory formation, and incorporation of the body’s detritus into constructions and erasures, The Lost Pictures quietly but powerfully explores realms of memory, nostalgia, space, vision, and yearning.
Allan deSouza’s exhibition is the twenty-third in the Pomona College Museum of Art’s Project Series, an ongoing program of focused exhibitions that brings to the Pomona College campus art that is experimental and that introduces new forms, techniques, or concepts.