Mar 31 – May 14, 2016
In his first solo show at Sommer Contemporary Art, American artist Lyle Ashton Harris will exhibit a new series of photomontages and a select set of recent chromogenic prints from his Archive series exploring intersections of the personal and the political. Harris is known internationally for his diverse artistic practice, ranging from photographic media, collage, installation and performance, which examine the contemporary impact of ethnicity, gender and desire across multiple social and cultural spheres.
Twenty-two chromogenic prints selected from Harris’s personal archive of 35mm Ektachrome color reversal slides that capture intimate moments among the artist’s close circle throughout the 1980s and 1990s will be shown, spanning locales from New York and Los Angeles to London, Berlin and Rome. Among those portrayed are notable artists, writers and filmmakers, including Nan Goldin, Isaac Julian, Renée Cox, Essex Hemphill, and Iké Udé, in addition to candid self-portraits of Harris himself. As a unique document of the late 20th century life, these works bear witness to fleeting moments throughout a period of seismic shifts across the social, political and artistic landscape, with the emergence of multiculturalism and nascent globalization, the second wave of AIDS activism, and the imbrication of the contemporary art scene with LGBT and African diaspora communities, the expanded impact of which is felt worldwide.
The exhibition will also include six large photomontages comprised of dense image clusters—juxtaposing media images, art historical references, political and entertainment figures, unique Polaroid prints, newspaper clippings, and re-photographed images of the artist’s works among other personal ephemera—evoke complex, layered associations excavated from collective memory. These striking new pieces emerged from a set of collage studies originally developed by Harris to explore the African Baroque, published in the catalogue of “Nero su Bianco”, a 2015 exhibition exploring contemporary and historical cross-currents of Italian and African influence, co-curated by Harris, fellow artist and critic Robert Storr, and Peter Benson Miller at the American Academy in Rome.
By exhibiting this recent series of photomontages in conjunction with the Ektachrome Archive, Harris seeks to evoke a space in which temporalities collide, disrupting notions of history and memory as mere repositories, while activating their potential to reimagine a multiplicity of narrative readings.
Harris was featured in the Project Room of Sommer Contemporary Art in 2015 with “Mapping Desire”, a selection of photographs spanning 1996-2014.
Lyle Ashton Harris (born 1965, New York) lives and works in New York. He received his Bachelor of Arts with Honors from Wesleyan University in 1988 and a Masters in Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts in 1990, and is an Associate Professor at New York University. His work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the 52nd Venice Biennale. His work has been acquired by major international museums, most recently by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2014 Harris joined the board of trustees at the American Academy in Rome and was named the 10th recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.