Ralph Lemon: (the Efflorescence of) Walter

Including a body of work focused on the American South, featuring works-on-paper, a multiple-channel video installation, and other sculptural elements that explore history, memory, and memorialization, (the efflorescence of) Walter, was choreographer, dancer and visual artist Ralph Lemon’s first solo exhibition in New York.

(the efflorescence of) Walter revolved around Lemon’s collaborative relationship with Walter Carter, an African American man who has lived for almost a century in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Since 2002, Lemon and Carter have met twice a year and created a “collaborative meta-theater” in which actions scripted by Lemon are translated and transformed through Carter’s performance and improvisations. The exhibition wove together videos of Walter’s actions with paintings, drawings and photographs by Lemon. Bringing together figures as varied as writer James Baldwin, artist Joseph Beuys, and Br’er Rabbit, a central character of African American folktales; as well as historical events from the Civil Rights era and cultural artifacts of the American South, this complex engagement with history, myth, and daily human existence explores how past, present, and future co-exist and at times collide.

The works presented in (the efflorescence of) Walter were the ongoing results of Lemon’s sustained inquiry into the politics of culture and the power and reliability of cultural memory. This inquiry was the original impulse for the monumental Geography Trilogy (1995-2004), Lemon’s quasi-anthropological exploration of movement across three continents, whose last installment, Come Home Charley Patton (2004), specifically addressed the complicated history of the southern United States.