Titled “Our first and last love,” the exhibition offers visitors a glimpse into Harris’ life through a journey of self-exploration traced through his last 35 years of work. The exhibition will be displayed from Aug. 23 to Jan. 7, 2024.
Harris, a Bronx, N.Y., native, is renowned for creating artwork that serves as a living archive of his own life, delving into the rich tapestry of African heritage. His creations often revolve around his family, with numerous family members as the central subjects of his photographic compositions.
“Our first and last love” was originally organized by the Queens Museum in New York and the Rose Museum at Brandeis University. Harris’ work is represented in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, among others.
Marshall Price, chief curator of the Nasher Museum, noted the motivation behind the layout of the exhibition.
“The show itself is a sort of condensed survey of his career, but it's clustered kinetically around a recent body of work that he calls his ‘Shadow Works,’” Price said.
The exhibit combines pieces across Harris’ previous installations and photographs, anchored by the recently-completed collection.
Situated in the center of the room is the centerpiece that commands the spotlight as the focal point of the exhibition.
Harris’ “Obsessão II” is a sprawling collage, spanning more than ten feet of wall space and is meticulously composed of an array of elements including news clippings, sticky notes and photographs. These various materials encapsulate a wide range of ideas, from portraying friends and lovers to cultural icons from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Flanking the “Obsessão II” are two striking self-portraits. In one titled “Saint Michael Stewart,” Harris confidently dons a New York City police officer uniform while wearing a full face of makeup, while the other, titled “Brotherhood, Crossroads and Etcetera #2,” depicts Harris caressing his unclothed brother with a gun pointed at his hip. Against bold green, black and red back cloths in the backdrop of both, Harris alludes to the colors of the black liberation flag.
At the very end of the exhibit, hangs four panels of silk organza depicting the Ghanaian coast with a video of serene beaches, Ghanaian funeral ceremonies and trees blowing in the wind superimposed upon it. Titled “The Cape Coast,” the artwork juxtaposes the idyllic natural scenery with the historical horrors that haunt the coast.
“The piece is quite moving in the way that it speaks to not only this ongoing relationship with West Africa that the artist has had over the years, but also this very important place, Cape Coast in Ghana,” Price said. “That was one of the major points of departure from the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It has a kind of resonance on a number of different levels.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.