Exhibitions - Our first and last love

Lyle Ashton Harris
Our first and last love

05.19.24 – 09.22.24

An image of the artwork Sucession by Lyle Ashton Harris. Two photographic prints are presented side by side on a textured background made of red Ghanaian cloth. The two dye sublimation prints capture a variety of the artist’s ephemera, mainly archival images, pinned on a wall. On the bottom left corner of the artwork is a broken piece of black textured plastic.

Lyle Ashton Harris, "Succession", 2020. Ghanaian cloth, dye sublimation prints, and artist’s ephemera. Private Collection © Lyle Ashton Harris. Courtesy the artist.

Drawing together photographs and installations from both his celebrated and lesser-known series, Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love charts new connections across the artistic practice of Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, NY). The exhibition explores Harris’s critical examination of identity and self-portraiture while tracing central themes and formal approaches in his work of the last 35 years.


The artist’s recently-completed Shadow Works anchor the exhibition. In these meticulous constructions, photographic prints are set within geometric frames of stretched Ghanaian funerary textiles, along with shells, shards of pottery, and cuttings of the artist’s own hair. Our first and last love follows the cues of the Shadow Works’ collaged and pictured elements—which include earlier artworks and reference materials, personal snapshots, and handwritten notes—to shed light on Harris’s layered approach to his practice.


Harris’s work engages with broad social and political dialogues while also speaking with revelatory tenderness to his own communities, and to personal struggles, sorrows, and self-illuminations. Groupings centered around singular Shadow Works will expand upon these multiple throughlines, including Harris’s continued examination of otherness and belonging; the framing and self-presentation of Black and queer individuals; violence as a dark undercurrent of intimacy and desire; tenderness and vulnerability; and notions of legacy—both inherited and self-defined.


Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love is co-organized by the Queens Museum and the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, and is co-curated by Lauren Haynes, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs, Queens Museum and Caitlin Julia Rubin, Associate Curator, Rose Art Museum.


About the Artist

Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, N.Y.) was raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and New York. Harris obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts. He attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Harris’s work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate, London, UK; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland, among others. Harris is a Professor of Art at New York University and lives in New York.


Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love is made possible in part by lead support from the Teiger Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Agnes Gund. Additional support is provided by the Queens Museum Exhibitions Circle.


The Queens Museum is housed in the New York City Building, which is owned by the City of New York.


The Museum is supported, in part, by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Mayor Eric Adams, the Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and the New York City Council under the leadership of Speaker Adrienne E. Adams.


Major funding is generously provided by the Booth Ferris Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jerome Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.