M. Lamar’s exhibition NEGROGOTHIC strips the American enterprise to its hard-core components of race, sexuality, violence, and optimism. In imagery that links the histories of slavery and Robert Mapplethorpe, and through sound that connects Lamar’s operatic counter-tenor with doom metal, the artist offers a searing and soaring portrait of the contemporary United States.
Through an immersive video projection, a haunting soundtrack, large-scale prints, and sculptural props, Lamar unveils a stunning, epic vision of black male figures in transition. Lamar’s expansive narrative draws from his own African American heritage, and performs a cultural grand tour that bridges the slave ship and bondage imagery, lynchings with capital punishment, and the Negro spiritual and contemporary protest. In this fearlessly constructed landscape, Lamar projects ecstatic resistance toward both the subjugated and essentialized black male.
Here we witness the violence of our past, freedoms of the present, alongside the ongoing inability of the American justice system to materially protect black youth. Lamar painfully evokes injustice, even as he occupies the transcendent, empowered role of the diva.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
M. Lamar works across opera, metal, performance, video, and sculpture to craft sprawling narratives of racial and sexual transformation. Lamar holds a BFA from SFAI and attended the Yale School of Art, sculpture program, before dropping out to pursue music. Lamar’s work has been presented internationally, most recently at Participant Inc., New York; New Museum, New York; Södra Teatern, Stockholm; Warehouse9, Copenhagen; WWDIS Fest, Gothenburg and Stockholm; The International Theater Festival, Donzdorf, Germany; Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York; Performance Space 122, New York; and African American Art & Culture Complex, San Francisco; among others. Lamar has had many years of classical vocal study with Ira Siff, among others; and is a recipient of the Franklin Furnace Fund Grant 2013–14. He recently performed the pre-transition role of Sophia, alongside his twin sister Laverne Cox, in Orange Is the New Black.
M. Lamar, Discipline 2, 2014; video still from Badass Nigga, the Charlie Looker of Psalm Zero Remix, 2013; HD video, sound; 5 minutes