Village Voice

March 9th, 2010
Lyle Ashton Harris: ‘Ghana’


Best known for his stylized photographic self-portraits, Lyle Ashton Harris’s current exhibition turns the lens on the country of Ghana, where he spends part of the year. Images of boats and beaches open the show, including a large printed screen on which Harris projects a video of everyday scenes from Ghanaian life. But these are also the beaches where slave ships moored, so an air of menace and containment runs through the work. Among the most striking examples is a series of photographs Harris took of collages that recent prisoners stuck to cell walls; the carefully excised images conjure fantasies of escape: a neat row of luxury cars, a cluster of suggestive women, a picture of Jesus.

Nearby, Harris fashioned a detailed wall collage of his own, which documents discrimination and violence against gays and lesbians in Ghana. Amid newspaper clippings and photographs, strategically placed mirrors aim to collapse the distance between event and viewer. The three-channel video Untitled (Black Power) finds Harris voyeuristically observing an outdoor gym where his camera’s gaze sculpts the men’s physiques while they do the same with rudimentary weightlifting equipment. A few of the bodybuilders perform for the camera, evoking Harris’s complications of black masculinity in his more autobiographical work. CRG Gallery, 535 W 22nd St, 212-229-2766. Through April 3