The August 2012 issue of Art Voices Magazine features an article by A.M. Weaver discussing changes in Black performance art in recent years. Weaver covers a wide variety of artists and their works, including Thomas Allen Harris and Lyle Ashton Harris.
By A.M. Weaver
“Since the days of Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany there has been the coexistence of sentiments of dual directives — one being assimilation and the other cultural independence. The dynamic of these directives has played out generationally, e.g. Dubois and Washington, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, President Obama and Richard Wright. And in today’s cultural sphere, a plethora of artists turn to installation and performance to make statements reflective of the paradox of being black in America.”
“From the mid-‘90s to the present, a new generation of artists emerged in performance art. For instance, the work of Lyle Ashton Harris and Thomas Allen Harris combined queer cultural motifs with lessons gleaned from antiquity. They revisit ritualized simulated ceremonies in their 1998Alchemy series, where painted and highly costumed bodies abound, alluding to Yoruba cosmologies.”
“Engaged with the art marketplace, ready to assume their positions as art stars, this younger group of artists are in fact willing to take a critical look at their work and those of their peers, recognizing that they are merely a part of an extensive history of black performative practices. Although we have limited this discussion to performance artists trained in visual art, American audiences and to some extent those abroad are familiar with performance art by blacks that draw from theatre, dance, music, and the spoken word.”