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First Museum Survey of the Artistic Work by Kalup Linzy on View at Studio Museum in Harlem
Photo: Grant Delin.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Studio Museum in Harlem presents Kalup Linzy: If it Don’t Fit, the first museum survey of the artist’s work, which includes approximately 20 videos (narrative and music), and two drawing suites made over the last seven years.

Known for the cast of comedic and dramatic characters he creates and performs, as well as for his original music and serialized narratives, Kalup Linzy (b. 1977) first presented his characters at the Studio Museum in African Queen (2005), and then again in Frequency (2005), a group exhibition of emerging artists. Since then, he has continued to create and star in his own videos, and work as a singer-songwriter. Drawing on a variety of American pop and counter cultural genres, Linzy takes a clever and complex approach to questions of race, gender, class and sexuality.

If it Don’t Fit, the title of the exhibition, originates from a song Linzy used in a recent video and speaks to several aspects of his aesthetic and approach to drag and performance. Throughout his work, Linzy marks the traces of his artistic hand and voice through intentional lo-fi, indie-quality and digital manipulation of his voice. The artist takes an equally makeshift approach to drag. Linzy’s characters do not dress to “pass” as a woman but instead reveal the way gender and race are themselves “performed.” His use of drag and impersonation for comic effect resonate with gay bar culture as much as his representations of club-hopping and late-night “creeping” conflate the lines between art and life. Without make-up and at times with a set-back blond wig, Linzy makes the everyday costuming and performances of race and gender visible. He takes on the complex negotiation between individuality and belonging that exists across different social groups.

Organized by Curatorial Assistant Thomas J. Lax with Assistant Curator Naomi Beckwith, the program is divided into three, hour-long segments, each named after one of the artist’s videos and emphasizing a theme that recurs in his work. The first program The Pursuit of Happyness features narrative and music videos, and opens with Linzy’s ongoing negotiation of love, loss and longing. The second, Da Churen, brings together works from the artist’s iconic “Churen” series (2003-05), which traces a set of family archetypes, both endearing and melodramatic. Finally, Ride to Da (Art) Club juxtaposes the social spaces of the contemporary art world, pop music scene and gay club scene, highlighting the tension between personal ambition and community-building.

The exhibition also includes nine drawings made by one of Linzy’s personas, “Katonya,” an emerging artist in the New York scene. The drawing suite includes the series, “Us and Them” (2007), which was recently acquired for the permanent collection of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Kalup Linzy (b. 1977) was born in Clermont, Florida and grew up in nearby Stuckey. Raised in the church and church choir, he first began performing musical numbers for his congregation and family. Coupled with an interest in impersonation and constant exposure to soap operas, Linzy opted to pursue a career as an actor and singer. Upon entering a BA (2000) program at the University of South Florida, he took full control of his artistic reins, working as writer, performer, editor and producer of his own short soaps, accompanied by his original music. Linzy also earned his MFA (2003) from the University of South Florida and then completed a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He has since moved to Brooklyn where he pursues his career as an artist. Kalup Linzy is represented in the collections of several museums, including The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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