Born 1942 in Lakeview, OR
Lives and Works in San Diego, CA
Since the early 1970s, Fred Lonidier has challenged the conventions of the photographic image, merging conceptual photography and leftist political activism. His choice to show his work in such nontraditional venues as union halls and shopping malls exemplifies his efforts to address an audience beyond the gallery and museum visitors. N.A.F.T.A. . . (Not a Fair Trade for All) (. . .) chronicles the artist’s longstanding project exploring border issues and labor rights in maquiladoras, assembly plants that operate in the free trade zone of Tijuana, Mexico.
The photo-text panels on view in the Biennial juxtapose Lonidier’s photographs of maquiladora workers with documentation of how these images have been received. When the artworks were initially shown, at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in 1999, Lonidier leafleted the maquiladoras, urging the workers to attend the exhibition. Fearing that the workers would be galvanized to organize, factory owners successfully pressured the University to take down the show. Lonidier countered in 2003 by setting up a mobile gallery in a tractor trailer that he sited in politically strategic locations throughout Tijuana, including the maquiladoras themselves; he documented his actions and has added those images as an integral element of the work itself.
GAF Snapshirts, one of the artist's projects from the 1970s, is also on view in the Biennial. During this era, Lonidier worked alongside Martha Rosler (b. 1943), Allan Sekula (1951–2013), and Phel Steinmetz (1944–2013) among other pioneers of conceptual photography, in the art department at the University of California, San Diego. GAF is an international corporation that when he made this piece, manufactured film, cameras, and projectors. Lonidier ordered create-your-own T-shirts from GAF that he had custom-printed with photographs from his research into its business and labor practices—staging a critique both of the company’s policies and of the complex relationship between global corporate marketing and self-expression.
2014 Biennial: Fred Lonidier
2014 Biennial artist Fred Lonidier speaks about his work detailing labor issues in light assembly plants in Tijuana.