Lyle Ashton Harris
In this course, students learn about the importance of Lyle Ashton Harris’ artwork and his sources which include the people he knows, gender, ethnicity, and race in relation to contemporary issues. In the first lesson, students use photography to create portraits and explore the medium as a tool for storytelling. In the second lesson, students respond to Lyle Ashton Harris’ work through writing.
Lyle Ashton Harris has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photography and collage to installation and performance art. Born in New York City in 1965, Harris spent his formative years in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. His work explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender, and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic.
The exhibition Ektachrome Archive is a series of chromogenic prints selected from the artist’s personal archive of 35mm Ektachrome color reversal slides. The archive represents a unique document of ephemeral moments and emblematic figures shot in the 1980s and 1990s against a backdrop of seismic shifts in the art world, the emergence of multiculturalism, the second wave of AIDS activism, and incipient globalization.
Bearing witness to a period of seismic shifts—the emergence of multiculturalism, the second wave of AIDS activism, and the interconnection of the contemporary art scene with LGBTQ and African diasporic communities—the Ektachrome Archive, an ongoing project, documents his friends, acquaintances, family, and lovers with unassuming candor.
They include many notable luminaries then on the cusp of ascendency, such as the photographers Nan Goldin and Catherine Opie, artists Glenn Ligon and Renée Cox, MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach, writers bell hooks and Essex Hemphill, and filmmaker Isaac Julian.
By setting intimate moments alongside landmark events (such as the Black Popular Culture Conference in 1991, the truce between the Crips and the Bloods in 1992, the Black Male exhibition at the Whitney in 1994, and the Black Nations/Queer Nations Conference in 1995), the archive constructs collective and private narratives to comment on identity, desire, sexuality, and loss.