Lyle Ashton Harris: Memoirs of Hadrian
On View September 04, 2003 - October 18, 2003
We are pleased to announce Lyle Ashton Harris’s first solo exhibition at CRG Gallery. Entitled, Memoirs of Hadrian, the exhibition consists of twelve unique 20 x 24 inch color Polaroids. In eight of the images the artist presents himself as a prizefighter in the midst of a match: gloved, bare-chested, semi-clad, bloodied and bruised. The figure is trapped in a tight claustrophobic rectangle of light with darkness closing in from all sides. The four other images are photomontages. In these, Harris continues his investigation of collage, which first appeared in the 1996 exhibition, The Watering Hole. In these works, various materials and objects are fixed to a stained Plexiglas surface: newsprint, 3 x 3 inch Polaroids, paint, a mouth guard, a boxing glove. The boxer figure is discernable just on the other side of the Plexiglas. A progressive fragmentation of the figure develops through the twelve works. These Polaroids are made from a cross-process technique that combines a color negative and a black and white positive. The artist first employed this technique in the series Recent Portraits exhibited at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in 1999. This cross-process produces a chocolate brown image, in which highlights are suppressed and deep shadows are solarized. The results are painterly photographs with the inherent figurative narratives ultimately subsumed by formal affects. The title for this series references Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel Memoirs of Hadrian. Yourcenar’s text is in the form of a letter from the aging Emperor Hadrian to his young successor Marcus Aurelius. Just as the recipient of Hadrian’s letter is ever present but not heard we are never presented with the inflictor of the wounds, just the image of the single bruised boxer. Yourcenar described her book as a meditation upon history. Harris sees this current series as meditation on conflict: both external (culture) and internal (momentary loss of self). Harris’s interest in Yourcenar’s novel and this body of work is a result of his year as a fellow at the American Academy in Rome during 2001. Following his return to New York, Harris developed four series: Billie, Josephine, Je ne sais quoi, and Memoirs of Hadrian. A publication featuring these works with an essay by Anna Deavere Smith will be available in September 2003. Lyle Ashton Harris’s work is concurrently on view in The Squared Circle: Boxing in Contemporary Art, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, through Oct 12, 2003, and, American Tableaux: Many Voices, Many Stories at Miami Art Museum, Miami, Florida through September 7th.