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Kalup Linzy is a character with multifaceted selves. His exhibition Tangled Up showcases the diverse range of personae the artist inhabits—a bizarre visual register that reference soap opera television and pop culture more broadly. The artist’s mixed media canvases incorporate thickly outlined black, white, and orange drawings and self-portrait photographs of particular fictional personalities that read as television stills or fragmented panels of a comic book-esque narrative.
In Take Note (all works 2018), the artist appears in a blond wig and lacy dress beside musical note doodles. Other canvases illustrate the artist in a bouncy afro, hoop earrings, reading glasses, and other potentially loaded adornments. Yet in drag roles where Linzy wears a dress, he still often sports a beard. His satirical portrayals make light of stereotypes, toying with our notions of gender, sexual, racial, and socioeconomic conventions as determined by outward presentation. Seen together, Linzy’s canvases sketch a visual index of his humorous yet trenchant impersonations.
In an adjacent room, Linzy’s motley crew of alternative personalities shimmy, shake, and belt out all manner of original song in a looping reel of 16 individualized music videos. One might get lost in the bustle of his tongue in cheek lyrics, deliberately crude low budget scenes, costumes, and other campy flourishes. Some songs are more pointed; in Trump Drama, Linzy recites the song’s titular chorus (“Trump drama”) over and over as he wanders a backdrop of neoclassical architecture, drinks wine, and smokes cigarettes with a group of young friends—modes of coping with our president’s erratic antics.
Another music video, Issues (Rebel) depicts a sexually charged love scene turned nightmare as one of Linzy’s feminine personas unzips a white motorcyclist’s jeans only to uncover Confederate flag boxers. For the artist, this flag acts both as a performative object and as a telltale indication of darker truths. With this fraught article of clothing, he considers the way that dark truths about politics and personality might lurk underneath unassuming outward appearances. Linzy’s cast of alter egos—and even his supporting cast of characters—are a meditation on selfhood in its many forms. Enacting these various roles, Linzy seems to assert that identities, are, after all, performed.
Kalup Linzy: Tangled Up runs 4 April 4–May 5 2018 at ltd los angeles (1119 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90019).