Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art (The Loft) Pride Performance (2020)
Originally presented at the Leslie-Lohman Museum virtual Pride celebration on Sunday, June 28, 2020! Filmed at Guthrie Green Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A painter, writer, director, actor, editor, singer-songwriter, and performance artist, Kalup Linzy is best known for his video series that deal with race, class, sexuality, and family dynamics within the formal system of daytime soap operas. Linzy supplants the predominantly white, middle-class, heterosexual characters of daytime dramas with figures who represent his own background as a gay, black male artist who was raised in the rural South. The low-tech, do-it-yourself aesthetic of his videos—spare production, campy performances, and rudimentary direction—gives them a gritty realism and conveys the personal nature of Linzy’s artistic practice. Indeed, his earnest expressions of loss and longing, aspiration and disappointment allow his art to maintain its sincerity while it emulates and satirizes popular cultural forms and the social politics of the art world.
As a youth, Linzy lived with his grandmother, an avid watcher of soap operas, and he performed musical numbers for his church congregation and family members. These experiences influenced his early work in art school, where he produced vignettes that developed into his acclaimed Conversations wit de Churen series. Inspired by the performances of RuPaul, Lily Tomlin, Flip Wilson, and those on the 1990s sketch-comedy show In Living Color, Linzy’s videos features a remarkable cast of characters. Taiwan, Katonya, Labisha, Nicuazia and others, are drawn from the artist’s 15-year practice of nearly thirty personas, many of which the artist performs in drag. Used as a liberating technique, drag allows Linzy to approximate emotional truth rather than femininity, as he plays his many female characters with obvious facial and body hair, and often sans make-up. Linzy also digitally voices and overdubs all of his characters’ dialogue in a black southern dialect. The dislocation of image and sound creates an uncanny ventriloquist-like effect. Nonetheless, his videos require the viewer to look beyond the surface as the narratives dissect a variety of societal and personal relations, making the works universal and engaging the audience in the characters’ plights.
Conversations Wit Churen XVI: As My Identity Turns and As Da Art World Might Turn, Season 3 (both exhibited on this occasion) are part of ongoing series originally developed by the artist in 2002. In these series, Linzy combines elements of Def Comedy Jam, Tyler Perry’s “Madea” character, and the early films of John Waters and Andy Warhol with the inherent drama of the soap opera genre. The title, a satirical play on All My Children and As the World Turns, sets the humorous and absurd tone of the piece.
As Linzy explains, humor and popular art forms are central to his work:
I love satire, and I love what I satirize. Yes, satire can be used as political propaganda to demoralize and dehumanize, but that’s not what I’m doing. I am role-playing, satirizing, and paying tribute at the same time to the genre of the soap opera. I also want to keep people coming back to my work. Those who enjoy it and follow it know there is always another episode around the corner.
Kalup Linzy (b. 1977, Clermont / Stuckey, FL) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY – he is currently a visiting fellow at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. He received a MFA and a BFA from the University of South Florida and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and LAX ART, Los Angeles, CA, among others. Recent group shows include The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; and MoMA P.S. 1, Long Island City, NY, and the traveling exhibition 30 Americans. Linzy has had multiple performances and screenings including the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Kitchen, New York, NY; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA, among others. Linzy is included in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL, among others. He has been honored with awards and grants including The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, The Creative Capital Foundation grant, The Art Matters grant, The Jerome Foundation grant, The Harpo Foundation grant, and The Headlands Alumni Award residency. Linzy’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Artnet, Artnewspaper, and The Guardian, Frieze, Art in America, and Artforum, among others. The artist is represented by David Castillo Gallery, Miami, FL and The Breeder, Athens, GR.