Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, a radical cultural scene emerged in cities across the globe, finding expression in the galleries, nightclubs, and bedrooms of New York, London, Los Angeles, and Rome. In Lyle Ashton Harris: Today I Shall Judge Nothing That Occurs, the artist’s archive of 35 mm Ektachrome images are presented alongside journal entries and recollections from a host of artistic and cultural figures. It offers a unique document of what Harris has described as “ephemeral moments and emblematic figures shot in the 1980s and ’90s, against a backdrop of seismic shifts in the art world, the emergence of multiculturalism, the second wave of AIDS activism, and incipient globalization.”
As a young artist experimenting with installation, performance, and collage at the time, Harris obsessively photographed his friends, lovers, and individuals who either were, or would become, figures of influence, such as Marlon Riggs, Cornel West, bell hooks, Stuart Hall, Klaus Biesenbach, Nan Goldin, Catherine Opie, Glenn Ligon, and others. The images record the confluence of multiple international communities—gathering points for the exchange of ideas and the development of theoretical positions on art and culture that continue to resonate to this day. Together, these photographs and the journals not only sketch a personal history of a unique time of importance to contemporary art, but also show the development and shaping of Harris’s eye and influences as an artist.