New York

Lyle Ashton Harris

Jack Tilton Gallery

In case you don’t already know, the art world is as rife with gangs as any urban ghetto—they have unofficial and sometimes official names (“the Yale Mafia”), turfs, and protocols—and so you have to look past the fact that institutions like the Whitney Independent Study Program seem to act on Lyle Ashton Harris like a sort of Art superego, transforming idlike impulses of creativity into the SoHo equivalent of gang colors and secret handshakes. Harris’ work may toe a certain party line (the interrogation of identity, the deconstruction of gender, class, and ethnicity, etc.), but it does so from above: in The Village Voice, Vince Aletti described the expression Harris typically wears in his photographic self-portraits as “casual, voluptuous contempt,” but in this case maybe looking down is merely symbolic of having risen above.

What differentiates Harris from many of those who fall under the

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