For this exhibition, Lyle Ashton Harris returns to self-portraiture, unabashedly claiming his place as an artist for whom sexuality, race, gender, ethnicity, class—and now aging—continue as core engagements. To enact this series, Harris sought a plurality of masks, several borrowed from his family’s collection of African masks belonging to his uncle, Harold Epps, who traveled throughout West Africa in the 1960s. Growing up in both the Bronx and East Africa, Harris often encountered such masks, which have embedded themselves into his identity. In their reanimation, his mythopoetic portraits aim to recharge and reclaim these familial objects.
This use of masks echoes expressive gestures found in Harris’s early iconic works. Yet, in these new cinematic images, the studio backgrounds have been replaced by lush, bucolic natural environments. All of the shoots took place in idyllic landscapes: Germantown in New York’s Hudson Valley, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and on Fire Island, New York. The mid-to-large-scale photographs (in editions of three), are dye-sublimation transfers printed on aluminum, giving the images a saturated luster.