Issue 36 May 2024

Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

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Issue 32 June 2023

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Issue 30 November 2022

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Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Louis Stern Fine Arts
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Opacity and the Spill: The Photographs of Clifford Prince King, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Shikeith

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Clifford Prince King, Between Us Quickly (detail) (2019). Archival pigment print on Canson Rag Photographique 310GSM, 30 × 20 inches. Edition 1 of 5, 2AP. Image courtesy of the artist and STARS, Los Angeles.

Clifford Prince King’s photographs touch me like scenes from a half-remembered film. In Hi-Lite (2017), a young man, dressed only in plaid, cobalt blue boxers, spreads himself out expectantly on a bed while the foot of another nudges the soft bulge of his crotch. The image is cropped tightly: an excerpt of a torso, thighs, a leg, and a sprinkle of hair meandering up a thigh. In V (2022), a portrait framed by a raspberry red drape, another shirtless man—with eyes drifting downwards and black hair parted into chunky twists—looks away from the camera, quietly refusing the unspoken demands of traditional portraiture. Sitting with King’s clipped torsos and averted gazes is an exercise in disorientation, leading me to adjust my expectations of what a portrait should do and show. His images propel a montage of sensations, pulling me closer to the tender parts of myself. A self-taught artist, King often works with friends, lovers, and those in his creative community—their scenes muddling the lines between candid and staged.

King’s focus on his friends and lovers echoes, in particular, the work of two other contemporary photographers, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Shikeith. The three artists are broadly linked by their focus on the textures of queer Black intimacies, building upon the legacies of artists like filmmaker Marlon Riggs, who created art devoted to Black men loving Black men during a period marked by its omnipresent homophobia, racism, and puritanism—his experimental documentary Tongues Untied (1989) unspools as a freewheeling journey into the emotional landscapes of the Black gay community. In contrast to King’s poetic reveries of queer Black men in the midst of domestic scenes, Sepuya photographs in a studio environment and employs collage elements and mirrors, exploring the questions that bloom when two or more bodies merge with the tools of the photographic medium. Across photography, installation, film, and sculpture, Shikeith’s work captures Black figures in moments of ecstasy, prayer, possession, and speculation, their bare skin dotted with sweat or blue pigment like a physical manifestation of psychic longing. The work of these three artists pushes past the limits of portraiture, reimagining the genre as a site of co-creation that involves not only the artists but their subjects and viewers.

I’ve noticed that profiles on King, Sepuya, and Shikeith often applaud their work as an expansion of Black masculinity through their challenging of traditional representation. Headlines often recycle a similar narrative: i-D announces that King “celebrate[s] the beauty of queer Black masculinity”;1 NPR writes that Shikeith “Showcas[es] A Different Side Of Black Manhood”;2  and AnOther says that Sepuya is “Capturing Queer Masculinity.”3 Shikeith points out: “We all get the same headline… I always joke about it with my friends. We’re making so many different kinds of things and we just get boxed in, and it’s so frustrating.”4 As the artist laments, these readings tend to minimize the elements beyond identity in each artist’s work, glossing over discussions of how, for example, abstraction operates aesthetically or formally within their photographs, or how their methods upend myths around the objectivity of the camera. Understanding their work solely through the frame of representation traps these artists in stagnant conversations that treat identity as a box to check, draining the specificity and creative artistry from their work. For me, beyond a conversation around identity and representation, each artist offers a different entry point into visibility, embracing strategies of concealment that seem at odds with the desire to be seen.

In RASPBERRY BLOW, King’s second solo exhibition at STARS in Hollywood, which closed in early September, figures were blurred, backs turned. A face peeked out from a crevice between two doors. Viewing the photographs was like being dropped into a scenario that was still in the process of unfurling, leaving me to gather a loose narrative between what was shown and what was left obscure. In a conversation with Sepuya (himself a friend and collaborator of King) hosted by the Robert Giard Foundation earlier this year, King touched upon anonymity, noting that in one sense, the impulse to conceal derives from an instinct to protect oneself. It is an act of safety. He added that, within his photographs, anonymity also allows space for others to step in, inviting them to use their imagination and experiences to fill in the mysteries posed by the images.5 King’s unwillingness to fully expose his subjects evokes Martinican philosopher and poet Édouard Glissant’s demand for the right to opacity, a counter against hegemonic efforts to categorize and dominate.6 Opacity refuses our culture’s transactional impulses, forcing us to look deeply. It also pulls into focus the limits of visibility and representation, and how a surface fidelity to these concepts can lead us to reinforce the very binaries that we wish to escape. 

Shikeith’s figures seem to thrive in this opaque state, moved by spirits that are invisible and ever-present. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Shikeith credits his grandmother as a monumental creative influence. Through her, he developed an appreciation for the uncanny aspects of living, where hauntings and spiritual revelations collide.7 In O’ my body, make of me always a man who questions! (2020), a shirtless man arches backward, his sweaty torso floating beneath the outstretched hands of two men dressed in black suits. The scene is all limbs, an exercise in elision—the omissions allow us to tune into the unseen energies conjured by the movement of hands and other body parts. Shikeith makes a language from these invisible forces, spinning ghostly tales of transcendence. Visiting Hours (2022) depicts a man sleeping on a sparse bed, his face nestled into the crook of his arm. The scene is bathed in a darkness made potent through the use of chiaroscuro lighting. A shrouded figure, cloaked in a white sheet, holds the man like a wounded lover. “Eyes—those proverbial windows to the soul—are always closed, downcast, or cropped out,” Zoë Hopkins writes of his work in Artforum. “Their inner life eludes our sight.”8

In a conversation with i-D, Shikeith explains that he sees visibility as a starting point, rather than a destination, for photography: “‘The medium also lends itself to other possibilities outside of these direct representations to something that’s more abstract and happening beneath what we see.’”9 In making this claim, the artist reveals how photography’s overemphasis on visibility can lead us away from the opaque forces that characterize living. Shikeith’s portraits center these abstractions of the mind, body, and soul. In an Aperture profile, the multimedia artist describes how the word “spill” guides his artistic vision, describing the spill as a “‘queer shape.’”10 Conjuring the properties of water, a spill connotes a sense of liberty, an inability to be confined or controlled. I see similarities between opacity and spill. Both express a desire for a mode of being that defies efforts to label. Like opacity, the spill buckles against calls for order and cohesion, tracing these concepts back to their colonial origins. As Teju Cole notes in his essay on the links between the history of photography and the spread of European imperialism, “photography during the colonial rule imaged the world in order to study, profit from and own it.”11 Embracing the spill opens up new approaches to image-making. Instead of studying their subjects, King and Shikeith enter a dialogue with them—a mutual exchange that transforms both subject and photographer.

Clifford Prince King, Hi-Lite (detail) (2017). Archival inkjet print on Canson Rag Photographique 310GSM, 30 × 20 inches. Edition 1 of 5, 2AP. Image courtesy of the artist and STARS, Los Angeles.

Like King and Shikeith, Sepuya turns away from the photographic impulse to dissect and profit. Born and raised in Southern California, Sepuya pulls apart the mechanics of photography and the artist studio—composing his frames with smudged mirrors, velvet drapes, tripods, lighting equipment, intertwined figures, test prints, and hands pressing camera shutters. (Though, in his recent Daylight Studio [2021–ongoing] series, he sometimes empties the frame of all figures, honing his gaze on the props and materials of the studio—rugs, pedestals, cushions—a sly reimagining of the elements of early portrait photography.) His pictures interrogate the relationship between subject and photographer, both of whom are often present in the picture. For Dark Room Studio Mirror (2021–22), a suite of images included in his recently-closed solo exhibition at Vielmetter Los Angeles, Sepuya photographed friends and lovers in his studio, lighting the scenes only with red safelights. The images were each exposed for a few seconds, warping the models into foggy apparitions.

Sepuya’s Dark Room Studio Mirror (0X5A5668) (2021) shows two men bathed in red light and positioned in front of a camera and tripod, their movements a spillage of kneeling, bending, and gazing. The images look into a mirror on which fingerprints and other smears from past models and visitors are visible, adding another layer of ghostly cloudiness. What remains is the thrum of forms, a snapshot of the quixotic modes of relation and being that underlie all interactions. Sepuya’s portraits recover the portrait studio as a site of queer sociality, where the boundaries between creative, platonic, and erotic are in constant flux. As he notes in an interview with Elephant, “That convergence…has a lot to offer when exploring photography as a medium of construction and desire, of looking and knowing we are being looked at.”12 For Sepuya, the spill extends to the medium itself, a way of pulling apart the embedded power dynamics of photography.

It’s exciting to see artists who are actively resisting the extractive demands of visibility, especially against the pressure to define oneself in terms that are legible and marketable. Though I am granted intimate proximity to these artists’ loved ones through their images, it is an intimacy that hinges on the assertion of the subject’s privacy and on the acceptance of an ongoing recalibration between divulging and withdrawing. As King said in an interview with Ebony: “Sometimes that ‘thing’ you’ve been looking for for so long is right in front of you. By being present and looking deeper, you can find it.”13 While their practices deviate in key ways, King, Sepuya, and Shikeith embrace concealment as a different mode of seeing and being—one that, to borrow the words of Hilton Als, “let[s] the mess come in.”14 This mess, like the blurs and smears in Sepuya’s images, brings us closer to the imperceptible and perceptible forces that exist within ourselves and between others, a boundlessness that spills over all of us.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 30.

Shikeith, O’ my body, make of me always a man who questions! (detail) (2020). Archival inkjet print on Canson Infinity Platine. © Shikeith. Image courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Twilight Studio (0X5A4174) (2022). Archival pigment print, 9 × 13 inches. Edition 1 of 5. Image courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles.

  1. Juliana Ukiomogbe, “These photos celebrate the beauty of queer Black masculinity,” i-D, January 21, 2021,
  2. Priska Neely, “‘#Blackmendream’: Showcasing A Different Side of Black Manhood,” NPR, December 14, 2014,
  3. André Wheeler, “In the Studio, in the Nude: An Artist Capturing Queer Masculinity,” AnOther, October 12, 2018,
  4. “Emil Wilbekin, What Does It Mean To Be A Young, Black Queer Artist Right Now?” New York Times, September 16, 2022,
  5. “Clifford Prince King in conversation with Paul Mpagi Sepuya,” Robert Giard Foundation, 16:50–17:55, February 18, 2022,
  6. Éduoard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, translated by Betsey Wing, University of Michigan, 2010.
  7. Tiana Reid, “Shikeith’s Black Uncanny,” Aperture, Spring 2022,
  8. Zoë Hopkins, “Shikeith at Yossi Milo Gallery,” Artforum, September 28, 2022,
  9. Miss Rosen, “Shikeith’s spiritual photographs of Black masculinity,” i-D, June 13, 2022,
  10. Reid.
  11. Teju Cole, “When The Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.),” The New York Times, February 6, 2019,
  12. Charlotte Janson, “Paul Mpagi Sepuya Brings A Fresh Gaze to the Male Nude,” Elephant Art, August 19, 2019,
  13. Marielle Bobo, “Clifford Prince King’s Tender Portraits of Black Intimacy,” Ebony, July 1, 2022,
  14. Emma Brockes, “Hilton Als: ‘I had this terrible need to confess, and I still do it. It’s a bid to be loved,” The Guardian, February 2, 2018,

Allison Noelle Conner’s writing has appeared in Artsy, Art in America, Hyperallergic, East of Borneo, and elsewhere. Born in South Florida, she is based in Los Angeles.

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