Lola Flash: [sur]passing

Autograph, London, United Kingdom
26 Apr 2019 - 17 Aug 2019

Lola Flash,

Lola Flash, "U is for Upside Down" (detail), New York, 1993. From the series Gay to Z. Courtesy of the artist. © Lola Flash

Working at the forefront of genderqueer visual politics for more than three decades, photographer Lola Flash’s work challenges stereotypes and gender, sexual, and racial preconceptions. Her art and activism are profoundly connected, fueling a life-long commitment to visibility and preserving the legacy of LGBTQIA+ and communities of colour worldwide.

At the core of this exhibition is Flash’s series [sur]passing. Emphasising varying shades of skin tone, these larger-than-life portraits feature a spectrum of global diasporic figures posed against urban skylines – probing the impact of pigmentation on black identity and consciousness. The scale of each photograph and the assertive gaze of the sitters invite contemplation of different lived experiences. Flash aims to foreground the complexities encompassing racial identities, and highlight the prejudices faced by black communities based on complexion. Flash’s work first came to prominence in the late 1980s as she documented the work of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, known as ACT UP, an international direct action advocacy group. An active member, Flash captured demonstrations that took place in New York, Washington DC and London, and marched in solidarity alongside her peers. She developed her signature cross-colour style during this time, seeking to subvert perceptions of race and representation through the inversion of colours in her photographs.

These bold and experimental early works from Cross Colour and Gay to Z will be on display alongside her ongoing series LEGENDS – portraits of prominent members of queer and non gender conforming communities. New portraits of London LEGENDS will be shown for the first time, including artists and activists Ajamu, Campbell X, MC Chickaboo, Sunil Gupta, Sadie Lee, Robert Taylor and Peter Tatchell. Flash’s practice is firmly rooted in social justice advocacy, inviting an open-ended, intersectional conversation around sexual, racial and cultural difference. “Flash’s photography pays tribute to those who courageously navigate contested zones of existence, transforming dissident sexualities and complex cultural identities into productive sites of exploration, reclamation and occupation” – Renée Mussai, Curator.

Lola Flash (b. 1959, New Jersey, United States) produces photography that contributes to a more inclusive, dynamic visual representation of marginalised communities. Following Flash’s 2018 solo exhibition at Pen + Brush, New York, she was commissioned by Smithsonian Magazine to photograph pioneering black women activist who reformed America’s segregated school system half a century ago in her series The Defiant Ones. Amongst many other publications and group exhibitions, Flash’s work featured in the publication and touring exhibition Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present by Deborah Willis. Her works are in private and public collections, including Victoria & Albert Museum in London and Brooklyn Museum, New York. In 2008, she was Artist-in-Residence at Light Work in Syracuse, NY. Flash received her bachelor’s degree from Maryland Institute and her Masters from the University of the Arts London. She currently lives and works in New York, and is represented by Pen + Brush, New York and Autograph, London. In August 2019, Flash will be an artist in residency at the The Center for Photography at Woodstock in NY, USA.




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