Clifford Prince King

Color So True

June 22— July 21, 2018

Clifford Prince King

Friday June 22 6-8pm: Artist Reception

Melanie Flood Projects is pleased to present Colors So True a solo exhibition of photographic work by Los Angeles based artist Clifford Prince King. The show will open June 22, 2018 and run through July 21, 2018, with an opening reception Friday, June 22 from 6pm to 8pm. This will be King's first solo exhibition.

The act of archiving is an evolving process. It exists within and outside of bodies and spaces and objects. Queer archiving is an art that stretches, extends, and challenges the body and its various constructions. In regards to the black queer body, archiving can act as a mirror, a map, a space of origin, a way to ask difficult questions. In the creation of a “visual diary,” Clifford Prince King’s photographs are reflective of this process–his work acting as a way to challenge, explore, and negotiate concepts of black gay sexuality, masculinity, and community. 

Often it’s subtle, a referential gesture seen through a staging of a black and queer ephemera. Shown in a tin of Murray’s hair pomade marked by the tips of fingers, a comb glossy with the grease, a mango fleshy and exposed. It’s the eroticism of a headboard adorned with wilting flowers wreathed by the elastic waistband of underwear, framed by RUSH “liquid incense” and an ornamental bust. It is in the documentation of this right after moment that evokes a right before moment, and vice versa. Through this staging, the photograph gives a glimpse into a black gay world through scenes and rituals of the everyday.

Arriving at an honest, critical portrayal of blackness is also a process. It’s constantly negotiating the “fear of rejection, exposure, and ridicule” that one encounters when existing in a world that has conceived notions of black masculinity, specifically black gay masculinity that puts them at risk for violence and marginalization. It’s in calling to past, present, and future understandings of the ways in which queerness and blackness intersect on bodies and in spaces that King approaches this negotiation of existing while queer and black. 

Notions of anti-blackness and queer-erasure are challenged in the creation of images; dark skin is contrasted with white milk seeping over shoulders, drenched yet unsaturated. Fatherhood is given a tender and intentional gaze. There is no shame, no shyness in the occupation of the frame in this portrayal of blackness that fills the space with potentiality.

Melancholia often marks scenes of black queerness, reflective of the “stigma, injustice, and hardships” that afflict gay black men. Through a display of vulnerability and intimacy, the black gay body gently exposed in King’s work remedies this trauma through the act of knowing and being known. In opening up and expanding into “the transhistorical space of gay life*” through evoking the ghosts of Baldwin, Hughes, and Basquiat, the exposure and the laying of bodies together does not reproduce the act of being gazed upon but rather evokes a sense of familiarity. It is a call to not be seen as other, but as part of a resilient and expansive collective.

It is in the layering of spaces that King’s work is not simply an act of archiving; it is a part of a collective world making, of sustaining and imagining black queer existence defined by the lived experience of those who are black and queer. 

-Text by Sydney Haliburton

Sydney Haliburton is a queer black student, writer, and musician based in Chicago, IL 

*Munoz, Jose Esteban. Disidentifications Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2015. Print.