Kalup Linzy: Tangled Up
February 15, 2018 - March 24, 2018
David Castillo Gallery, Miami Beach
Tangled Up by Kalup Linzy is an exercise in narrative, where the artist as storyteller weaves fragments of personal and collective memory to inform upon a sweeping, yet localized, account of identity-formation, selfhood, and self-fashioning in the current cultural climate. Approaching his subject matter both musically and visually, Tangled Up takes the form of an exhibition and visual album comprised of sixteen audio tracks with accompanying videos, all written, composed, and performed by Linzy, with the exception of the spiritual “Down by the Riverside,” which the artist performs, calling upon the racial histories of the United States.
Linzy’s performances, and the visual language he draws upon in his still- and moving-image work, borrow from cultural artifacts that are rooted in the tropes of daytime soap operas, reality television, Hollywood drama, and situational comedies. Tangled Up itself follows in a narrative structure that points towards the beginning, middle, and end of an ambiguous set of events and circumstances; the turmoils, uncertainties, and resolutions of topics—from politics to love to vindication—that suggest the ebb and flow of Linzy’s life and upbringing.
In “Do You Know,” the visual album’s opening number, the artist looks back on his own history, the entirety of which he likens to “one ongoing monologue—just words, words, words about actions, actions, actions…”. This overarching testimony about the uncertainty of contemporary living is book-ended in the album’s second-to-last song, “Let Us Be,” which opens with an eye toward self-reflection: “Looking back on my life/ Reflecting/ Taking it all in stride/ All the different energies/ Came crisscrossed in my life/ Will my dreams ever be satisfied?”
Linzy’s work draws upon itself; a 15-year practice and a pantheon of nearly thirty personas, many of which the artist performs in drag, that recur throughout a fictional network of interconnected relationships that inform an epic, narrative saga. In exploring the interwoven threads of his characters, Linzy is himself tangled up and embroiled in the politics of performativity; of identity, race, gender and sexuality; and the promise of the United States’ looming social instability. Tangled Up speaks to the overlapping activist platforms of today, which find their roots in the identity politics and AIDS activism of the 1980s. And Linzy ultimately exemplifies the multi-hyphenate means through which uncommon representations find their way into common acceptance, evidencing the strides made and the progress yet to happen.
During the opening event for Tangled Up, Linzy will perform in the gallery as Kaye, an assumed persona—a video artist and musician—from the artist’s collection of identities.