Artist Spotlight: Lyle Ashton Harris

By Albert Smith

Originally published on Advocate.com August 14 2010 5:00 AM ET

Lyle Ashton Harris 01 Joella Johnson Lyle's grandmother xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Joelle Johnson, Harris's grandmother

 

Ever since
he was born in the Bronx, N.Y., Lyle Ashton Harris has split his time
between New York and some far-off land. As a boy, it was Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania. Now he lives and works in New York City
and Accra, Ghana.

His work has been exhibited
internationally, including
at the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Harris's work is regularly featured in a wide range of publications,
including The New York Times Magazine, Vibe, and New York.
During 2000 and 2001, he was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome,
and now he serves as an assistant professor of art at New York University.

This fall Gregory R. Miller & Co. will publish Lyle Ashton Harris, Excessive Exposure: The Complete Chocolate Portraits, with an essay by Okwui Enwezor and foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Advocate: Why are you a photographer?
Harris: I’ve been photographing for many years now and still continue to take pleasure in making portraits.

What catches your eye?
Images that hold a certain amount of complexity and at the same time possess an amount of beauty and clarity.

How do you choose your subjects?
The subjects chosen for my new portrait book, Excessive Exposure,
range from my grandmother to art world and cultural luminaries
including Cindy Sherman, Kehinde Wiley, Yoko Ono, and Tony Kushner.

How do you describe your work?
This
new series was photographed with the 20 x 24 Polaroid camera over a
period of 10 years. I used chiaroscuro lighting to produce portraits
that are both vulnerable and mysterious.

What makes a good photograph to you?
I like images that make me question and be curious about the subject.

Who are your favorite artists? And why?
Caravaggio,
Bacon, Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, and Jean-Michel Basquiat —for their
ability to explore complex ideas and emotions in their work.















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Lyle Ashton Harris 02 JUSTIN BOND xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Justin Bond

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Lyle Ashton Harris 03 KEHINDE WILEY xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Kehinde Wiley

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Lyle Ashton Harris 04 DJ SPOOKY xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

DJ Spooky

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Lyle Ashton Harris 05 CINDY SHERMAN xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Cindy Sherman

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Lyle Ashton Harris 06 TONY KUSHNER xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Tony Kushner

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Lyle Ashton Harris 07 THOMAS ALLEN HARRIS xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Thomas Allen Harris

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Lyle Ashton Harris 08 DORIAN xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Dorian

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Lyle Ashton Harris 09 RUDEAN LEINAENG LYLE'S MOTHER xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Rudean Leinaeng, Harris's mother

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Lyle Ashton Harris 10 JIM HODGES xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Jim Hodges

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Lyle Ashton Harris 11CATHERINE GUND xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Catherine Gund

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Lyle Ashton Harris 12 GLENN LIGON xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Glenn Ligon

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Lyle Ashton Harris 13 ANTONY HEGARTY xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Antony Hegarty

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Lyle Ashton Harris 14 HENRY LOUIS GATES JR xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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Lyle Ashton Harris 15 SELF PROTRAIT xSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

Self-portrait