The Queens Museum presents "an utterly idiosyncratic Black aesthetic"
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, July 25, 2024


The Queens Museum presents "an utterly idiosyncratic Black aesthetic"
Untitled (Blue #1), 2002 (detail). Polaroid, 24 x 20 in.

by Lyle Ashton Harris



NEW YORK, NY.- Summer started heating up early this year with “Our first and last love,” my solo exhibition at the Queens Museum, which opened in May and runs through September 22, 2024. Much appreciation goes to the museum’s visionary President/Executive Director Sally Tallant, to its Board members and staff as well as to the exhibition’s brilliant co-curators Lauren Haynes (currently Head Curator and Vice President for Arts and Culture of Governor’s Island in New York City) and Caitlin Julia Rubin (currently an Interim Curator of Exhibitions at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts)! It was also so gratifying to have been selected by the museum to be this year’s honoree at its annual gala, which served as an energizing exhibition kick-off party with many longstanding community supporters in attendance, followed by a great opening day on which I led a special walk-through of the show, joined by many dear friends, family, collectors, plus hundreds of museum visitors. And since the opening, I’m very pleased the exhibition has been garnering much media interest.

In The New York Times, Holland Cotter observed that the show gives “a sense of the spectrum of identities Harris was critically examining related to race, gender and sexuality. Each of these subjects was getting attention from other artists at the time. But no artist, at least in New York City, was so consistently tackling the whole range from a queer Black position,” describing it as “one of the most remarkable bodies of American art around, a data-dense, visually compelling archive, not just of one life but, as seen through that life, of the social and political history of Black queer culture in the post-Stonewall years.”

In The New Yorker, Vince Aletti noted: “Slipping easily between genders, and landing at some thrilling place where identity is at its most fluid, Harris is one of the wittiest and busiest heirs to an outlaw avant-garde [and] possesses a sensitivity to and an understanding of African art and culture in all its variety [. . .] it’s about depth, flair, and a sense of cultural continuity [with] a Pop aura that he grounds in an utterly idiosyncratic Black aesthetic, as funky as it is sophisticated [. . .] a show as tender and touching as it is raspingly raw.”

Other exhibition notices have appeared in publications ranging from Ebony, to Hyperallergic to BlackBook. I was particularly delighted that the show occasioned the opportunity to engage with my friend and fellow photographer Ryan McGinley in a conversation about art, activism, and creativity that Interview magazine published online. I also recently had the pleasure of an in-depth conversation about my work published by Musée magazine as well as an interview with host Alison Stewart of WNYC’s cultural program and podcast “All of It” (scheduled to air on July 24, Wednesday, at 1 p.m. EDT).

Also, the exhibition’s beautiful 160-page hardbound catalogue (co-published by the Queens Museum, the Rose Art Museum, and Gregory R. Miller & Co.) is now available for advance purchase online as well as in the Queens Museum’s gift shop. Richly illustrated, the catalogue includes an in-depth interview with me by the curators as well as insightful essays by four distinguished contributors (Nana Adusei-Poku, Roderick A. Ferguson, Ariel Goldberg, and Paulette Young) plus full-color plates of all works in the exhibition including the complete set of my Shadow Works produced to date in addition to extensively illustrated appendices with detailed annotations.

If your summer plans include upcoming travel, I invite you to join me and Lauren Haynes (a co-curator of "Our first and last Love") for a special public conversation about my work that will be presented at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum on August 10 (Saturday) at 4 p.m. Also, if you’ll be traveling south to the Washington D.C. area, I recommend checking out a dynamic new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery titled "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon: James Baldwin and the Voices of Queer Resistance" opening July 12, 2024 through April 20, 2025, curated by its Director of Curatorial Affairs, Rhea Combs in consultation with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hilton Als. If you’ll be in Europe over the next couple months, I encourage you visit Amsterdam’s Melkweg, an exciting exhibition and performance space featuring an inspired photo exhibition titled "This is The Truth: The Black Queer Masculine Through a Reclaimed Lens" curated by J.G. Basdew, on display from July 6 – August 15, 2024. (The last two exhibitions mentioned include selected works from my Ektachrome Archive.)










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