Lyle Ashton Harris – Early Works 1987-88 (The White Face Series) (Works)

Selected Works

Lyle Ashton Harris

Early Works 1987-88 (The White Face Series)
May 10 – June 21, 1997

Lyle Ashton Harris – Early Works 1987-88 (The White Face Series) Press Release

Following two New York solo exhibitons since 1994 (The Good Life, 1994, and The Watering Hole, 1996; both at Jack Tilton Gallery), this showing of a body of work now considered seminal, will allow the public to examine and uncover the range of the artist’s work over the past 10 years.

The exhibition is comprised of eight b&w photographs, measuring 60 x 40 inches. Individual images have been reproduced on the covers of influential journals such as Transition (1993, No. 58), Outlook (1991, No. 13), Ten. 8 (1990, Spring), and appeared in a range of publications internationally either as portfolios (i.e. Brutus, 1995, No. 15) or individually.

Begun in 1985 and completed in 1987-88, Lyle Ashton Harris’s The White Face Series is a visual precursor of major concerns that came to occupy contemporary cultural discourse in the 1990s. Inviting multilayered readings, Harris presents iconic images that metaphorically transgress traditional concepts of both sexual and racial identity. Understood as social and cultural (rather than biological) constructions, conventional definitions of gender and ethnicity are blurred.

The series unfolds visually as a performed narrative of socio-psychological interrelations, a symbolic panoply of ethnicity, identity and definitions of self. Staging the reversal of a historically significant trope – a black faced minstrelsy – Harris employs spare accoutrements to create personae that enact a multivalent transmutation. As the photographic frame dissolves into the theatrical space, hybridized images are formed: Western notions of beauty (exemplified by the masquerade of femininity as spectacle) slide towards that ubiquitous element of African diaspora aesthetics, the mask.

Lyle Ashton Harris received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and M.F.A from the California Institute of the Arts. Solo exhibitions were held at Jack Tilton Gallery, NYC, 1996 and 1994, and at Centro de Arte Euroamericano, Caracas, 1996. Recent group exhibition venues include the Guggenheim Museum, NYC, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. Harris is the recipient of several grants, His works have been extensively discussed in both main stream press (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Village Voice, Elle, Out, et al.) as well as specialized magazines (Art in America, Artforum, Flash Art, et al.). He currently resides in New York and Los Angeles.

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