Hillerbrand+Magsamen, "Family Portrait", October 30- December 29, 2013



on view: October 30 – December 29, 2013

reception: November 16, 2013 from 4-6pm

Press Release →

As a collaborative team, we draw upon the rich Fluxus practice of incorporating humor, performance, video and everyday objects.

We expand our personal family life into a contemporary art conversation about family dynamics, suburban life and American consumer excess.This new kind of “suburban fluxus” generates work that documents and re-contextualizes our objects and possessions of self, family and culture, the role of the camera in contemporary art and challenging presumptions of the everyday.

We draw no line between the roles we assume in our lives and our art: we are the photographers and the photographed, and our examination of the idea of Family is dependent on the existence of our own. In the age of YouTube and American Idol, we have all become actors and performers. Reality becomes blurred: are we creating a documentary? A fiction?

The House/hold photograph series are portraits of our family that playfully capture slices of our daily life with surreal viewpoints and dark humor inspired by actual events from bath time to laundry. Born out of our ordinary life and evolved into the extraordinary, the photographs were taken in our home with controlled lighting and composition. We are interested in the identity of family and how that is communicated as middle-class Americans living in a suburban home with two children, a dog and too much stuff. Those things that we have worked so hard to obtain become both the burdens and joys in our lives. Titled after literary and mythological characters, we are referencing historical family stories of the heroism and tragedy such as Ophelia, Hercules, Pandora and Sisyphus. Throughout the House/hold photographs the charged personal narratives of our family speak to the structures of identity politics and consumerism.

Embarking on an “epic adventure” in the video Whole, we creates new levels of interaction, communication and exploration by breaking and cutting holes into our actual home to make a habitrail-like environment where we go nowhere fast. With conscious forethought, we critically examine the media grammar in our popular culture today by applying a “Hollywood” aesthetic to their work with layered dramatic music, visually rich cinematography, and faced paced editing. This “style” is juxtaposed against the performance-based video that expands the idea of the home video to a completely new level.

DIY Love Seat, is a playful an experimental short video that reinterprets our family and its identity. In this dark comedy a woman takes the family couch and cuts out a section with a chainsaw. The husband, in a very deadpan manner, takes duct tape and repairs the couch. This physical act brings them literally closer together but perhaps not emotionally.

ETA is short for “estimated time of arrival.” In this video a couple’s tension is illustrated through the enclosed space of a car as rain and thunder dramatically pour down with an impending doom. The end reveals a constructed reality in a suburban environment that plays on ideas of film, theater and reality within a relationship.

Family Portrait is a 4-channel video installation creating “living portraits” of ourselves and our two children. Each member of our family: Father, Mother, Daughter and Son have a video where they are engaging individually in an action. These actions are given an unexpected twist of surrealism such as the daughter getting sucked up by stuffed animals, the son smashing a stack of plates, the mother walling herself into her closet with bricks and feathers and the father standing idle with a garden hose while the barbeque grill ignites. Amid the 4 suspended screens is a mass of used consumer products filling the space. Big Wheels, lawn furniture, old books, weed wacker, toys, clothes, and the list continues about what we hoard and hold onto in our mountain of stuff in our closets, storage containers and garages.

Hillerbrand+Magsamen have presented their videos in prestigious international film and media festivals including SCOPE Basel, WAND V Stuttgarter Filmwinter, Taiwan International Video Art Exhibition, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Boston Underground Film Festival, LA Freewaves New Media Art Festival, Carnegie Museum of Art, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Dallas Video Festival and New York Underground Film Festival. Well known titles of their work include Lick, Air Hunger, Coffee & Milk, Let’s Get Married, Blender Love and Accumulation.

Their cinematic based installations have been seen in Hong Gah Museum in Taiwan, the Hudson River Museum, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Museum of Fine Art Houston, Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, and Houston Center for Photography. They have been awarded grants from Austin Film Society’s Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund, Ohio Arts Council, Houston Arts Alliance and a Carol Crow Fellowship from the Houston Center for Photography.

They live and work in Houston, TX with their two children Madeleine and Emmett. Mary Magsamen is the Curator of the micro-cinema, the Aurora Picture Show and Stephan Hillerbrand is an Associate Professor in the Photo/Digital Media Program at the University of Houston.

PR: Hillerbrand + Magsamen


Hillerbrand + Magsamen


on view: October 30 – December 29, 2013

reception: November 16, 2013 from 4-6pm
CPW is proud to present Family Portrait an exhibition featuring the works of the husband and wife team of Stephen Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen.

Steeped in Fluxus practice, which calls for the blurring of boundaries between the intersection of art, life, and ritual, Hillerbrand+Magsamen’s work incorporates humor, performance, photography, video, and everyday objects. They expand their personal life into a contemporary art conversation about family dynamics, suburban life, and American consumer excess.

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