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Rose Art Museum presents Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love

February 9–July 2, 2023

From February 9 through July 2, 2023, the Rose Art Gallery at Brandeis University will host Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and final love, the artist's first solo museum exhibition in New England in almost two decades.

Opening reception: March 15, 6–8pm

Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, NY) has built a diversified artistic practice ranging from photography and collage to installation and performance art over the last 35 years. Our first and last love exhibits approximately 40 works of art throughout Harris’s illustrious career, including choices from the artist’s newly completed “Shadow Works” series. The show, co-organized with the Queens Museum in New York, will be on display in the Rose Art Museum’s Lois Foster Wing from February 9 to July 2, 2023.

“The Rose Art Museum is honored to present Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love. This significant exhibition resonates with the museum’s ongoing mission to support and exhibit work that interweaves bold artistic expression with issues pertaining to social justice,” said Dr. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator of the Rose Art Museum. “The Rose is committed to Lyle’s work and to amplifying the painfully relevant themes he exposes: the rampant racism, homophobia, and transphobia of today, seen as interlaced with legacies of hate and histories of violence against Queer and Black communities and ‘othered’ individuals.” 

Our first and last love explores new links in Lyle Ashton Harris’ artistic practice, bringing together for the first time several of his acclaimed pieces with his lesser-known series. The exhibition, which is organized in thematic clusters centered on pieces from Harris’s current “Shadow Works” series, focuses on the artist’s previous studies of the Black and Queer communities to which he belongs, as well as the artist’s own experiences, difficulties, and self-illuminations.

Mounted Ghanaian textiles are inset with photographic dye sublimation prints on aluminum and Harris’s personal ephemera, such as gathered shells, fragments of pottery, and lengths of the artist’s hair, in each of the Shadow Works. Harris created each assemblage in the “Shadow Works” series by deliberately combining pictures of previous artworks, studio wall collages, reference materials, personal notes, and photos from his archive and notebooks. The conceptual logic of the eight anchoring Shadow Works connects with the exhibition of Our first and final love. Individual pieces from Harris’s earlier years are displayed in interaction with the Shadow Works within which they are graphically portrayed, allowing viewers to trace Harris’s creative journey and examine the formal and thematic progression of his works across four decades.

“In his Shadow Works, Harris re-engages with prior artworks and earlier moments in his life. The series speaks to his interest in developing an archive of his own,” explained Caitlin Julia Rubin, Associate Curator, Rose Art Museum, who co-curated the exhibition with the Queens Museum’s Lauren Haynes. “The Shadow Works reveal dynamic shifts in Harris’s creative practice and how his ongoing relationship to certain recurrent themes and materials has both expanded and coalesced over the years.”

Harris explores the complexities of constructing one’s image in connection to the inherited bonds of family and social history in the Shadow Work Succession (2020). Oracle (2020), another Shadow Work, emphasizes the threat of violence that continues to shadow the queer community, with photos of Harris’s previous romantic relationships juxtaposed with victims of hate crimes, such as Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who was murdered in the 2016 Pulse nightclub tragedy.

“Within his “Shadow Works” series, Harris mines the past to address the present, revisiting and extending conversations sparked by his earliest artworks and relationships. As an artist, Harris is engaging in constant reexamination and recentering: constructing new meaning and finding clarity within these sifted layers,” stated Lauren Haynes, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs of the Queens Museum.

Following the Rose’s presentation of Our first and last love, the exhibition will move to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, August 23, 2023–January 7, 2024, and will travel to the Queens Museum, NY, April 1–September 8, 2024. 

About Lyle Ashton Harris
Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, NY) was raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and New York. Harris obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts. He attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Harris’s work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate, London, UK; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland, among others. Harris is a Professor of Art at New York University and lives in New York.

Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University
415 South Street
Waltham, Massachusetts 02453
United States
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–5pm

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