Arts

Departing Houston Director Launches a New International Photography Website — Assembly Creates Art Buzz

Two Experienced Cofounders On a Mission

BY // 08.30.21

One of the most positive pieces of art news we received during the pandemic has a photo focus. Houston Center of Photography’s departing director Ashlyn Davis Burns shares that she had a new project in the works: Assembly, a smart, artist-focused website that just launched this spring.

It’s already generating buzz in the international photography community. Why?

Look no further than cofounders Davis Burns, based in Houston, and Shane Lavalette, an artist and former director of Light Work, Syracuse, New York — a nonprofit similar to Houston Center of Photography in its long history and commitment to fostering careers in the photo firmament.

 

Houston-based Ashlyn Davis Burns — former director of Houston Center for Photography — is a co-founder for the newly launched international photography website Assembly.
Houston-based Ashlyn Davis Burns — former director of Houston Center for Photography — is a co-founder for the just launched international photography website Assembly. (Photo by Jan Rattia)

The newly minted website boldly proclaims its mission and global goals: “Assembly is a gallery, agency, and creative studio supporting an innovative roster of visual artists who are engaging in some of the most important social and cultural issues of our time.”

Shane Lavalette, an artist and former director of the nonprofit Light Work — based in Syracuse, New York — is a co-founder of Assembly.
Shane Lavalette, an artist and former director of the nonprofit Light Work — based in Syracuse, New York — is a co-founder of Assembly.

What’s unique about Assembly is its hybrid model. More than ecommerce, the new photo portal melds aspects of a gallery, photo agency, publishing house (for niche artist books), online magazine/photo blog, and studio. The website also gets kudos for its intimate roster. There are just 10 talents so far, all of whom combine a global scope with activist bent.

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Many are museum collected, from SFMOMA to the Victoria & Albert in London, with a history of collaborating with magazines and international media and brands on projects and campaigns. The Assembly stable spans the under-recognized to the mid-career, with price points from $1,500 to $10,000, with works ranging from lens-based images to sound, mixed-media and video.

Assembly brings the world to collectors, embracing artists born in India, Mexico, Japan, the United States, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, France, Colombia and Chile (notably, a recent MFAH Core Fellow, known for his tableau that question the value of work and labor, Rodgrigo Valenzuela).

Besides Valenzuela, the Assembly roster includes these additional talents who serve up a global perspective. American artist David Alekhuogie, who lives and works in Los Angeles, uses a multi-disciplinary practice to investigate themes of identity, memory, technology, media and power that expand the definition of photography. Indian trans artist and activist Poulomi Basu’s images advocate for the rights of women. And Monterrey, Mexico-based Alejandro Cartagena’s images feature landscape and portraiture of great sensitivity, that in turn illuminate the issues of our time.

Additional headliners to have on your radar featured on Assembly?

Vasantha Yogananthan's Howling Winds, from "A Myth of Two Souls,"2019. The French photographer, of half Sri Lankan descent, has been on a seven-year creative odyssey across Indian to interpret the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana. 
Vasantha Yogananthan’s Howling Winds, from “A Myth of Two Souls,”2019. The French photographer, of half Sri Lankan descent, has been on a seven-year creative odyssey across Indian to interpret the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana.

Mexican-British artist Alinka Echeverría, who wields a master’s in social anthropology, offers a feminist perspective that questions colonialism. New York-based Alanna Fields brings the Black queer perspective, via found vernacular photos, text and collage. Los Angeles and Tokyo-based Fumi Ishino conjures images that question cultural identity via the constructed space. Bangladeshi photographer Sarker Protick poetically and profoundly explores climate change via his series on the Ganges River. Colombian photographer and weaver Cristina Velásquez’s unforgettable Leaf Hats is both enigmatic and Surreal. And the myth-based image-making of French photographer of half Sri Lankan descent Vasantha Yogananthan makes an impact. Yogananthan has been on a seven-year creative odyssey across Indian to interpret the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana. 

“I’m most excited about working alongside our amazing roster of artists, all of whom are very steeped in their practices, actively seeking to make important change in the world through their work, and who are genuinely engaged in some of the most relevant, global issues of our time,” Ashlyn Davis Burns tells PaperCity.

077 AlejandroCartagena_Between Borders #2_2009-10
Monterrey, Mexico-based Alejandro Cartagena’s images feature landscape and portraiture of great sensitivity, that in turn illuminate the issues of our time. Here, Between Borders, 2009-2010. The photographer is reflective of the global scope and ambition of the newly launched photography website, Assembly.

Shane Lavalette adds, “We’ve already had an amazing response from collectors, museum curators, photography directors, magazine editors, ad agencies and artists alike.

“So, really, the most exciting part about the launch of Assembly is the expansive possibilities for new and exciting creative projects.”

078 CristinaVelasquez_Leaf hats_2017-18
Cristina Velásquez ‘s Leaf Hats, 2017-2018, possesses a Surreal edge. The Colombian artist is both a photographer and a weaver, creating a subtle body of work that addresses colonialism.

Post-COVID, the co-creators plan physical exhibitions as well as other forms of community engagement with audiences in Texas and New York. Stay tuned.

For more, check out Assembly’s full website.

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