(Waltham, Mass. December 2022) — This winter, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University presents Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New England in over two decades. Over the last thirty-five years, Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, N.Y.) has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photography and collage to installation and performance art. Our first and last love draws together pieces from Harris’s celebrated career, exhibiting over 40 works of art, including selections from the artist’s recently completed Shadow Works series. Co-organized with the Queens Museum, N.Y., the exhibition will be on view in the Rose Art Museum’s Lois Foster Wing from February 9 through July 2, 2023. 

“The Rose Art Museum is honored to present Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love. This significant exhibition resonates with the museum’s ongoing mission to support and exhibit work that interweaves bold artistic expression with issues pertaining to social justice,” said Dr. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator of the Rose Art Museum. “The Rose is committed to Lyle’s work and to amplifying the painfully relevant themes he exposes: the rampant racism, homophobia, and transphobia of today, seen as interlaced with legacies of hate and histories of violence against Queer and Black communities and ‘othered’ individuals.” 

Our first and last love charts new connections across the artistic practice of Lyle Ashton Harris, bringing together several of his celebrated works with his lesser-known series for the first time. Organized in thematic clusters centered around select works from Harris’s recent Shadow Works series, the exhibition expands upon the artist’s past explorations of Black and Queer communities to which he belongs, as well as the artist’s personal experiences, struggles, and self-illuminations.

In each of the unique Shadow Works, mounted Ghanaian textiles are inset with photographic dye sublimation prints on aluminum and Harris’s personal ephemera, such as collected shells, shards of pottery, and locks of the artist’s hair. Harris composed each assemblage in the Shadow Works series through intentional accumulation, juxtaposing images of earlier artworks, studio wall collages, reference materials, personal notes, and snapshots sourced from his archive and journals. The installation of Our first and last love resonates with the conceptual logic of the eight anchoring Shadow Works. Singular artworks from Harris’s earlier years are displayed in dialogue with the Shadow Works within which they are visually represented, allowing viewers to follow Harris’s creative journey and unpack his works’ formal and thematic development over four decades.

“In his Shadow Works, Harris re-engages with prior artworks and earlier moments in his life. The series speaks to his interest in developing an archive of his own,” explained Caitlin Julia Rubin, Associate Curator, Rose Art Museum, who co-curated the exhibition with the Queens Museum’s Lauren Haynes. “The Shadow Works reveal dynamic shifts in Harris’s creative practice and how his ongoing relationship to certain recurrent themes and materials has both expanded and coalesced over the years.”

The Shadow Work titled Succession (2020) finds Harris exploring the complexity of defining one’s image in relation to the inherited ties of family and social history. Another Shadow Work, Oracle (2020), highlights the threat of violence that continues to haunt the queer community, with images of Harris’s past romantic partners alongside images of victims of hate crimes, such as Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who was murdered in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

“Within his Shadow Works series, Harris mines the past to address the present, revisiting and extending conversations sparked by his earliest artworks and relationships. As an artist, Harris is engaging in constant reexamination and recentering: constructing new meaning and finding clarity within these sifted layers,” stated Lauren Haynes, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs of the Queens Museum.

A public reception for Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love will be held on Wednesday, March 15. Following the Rose’s presentation of Our first and last love, the exhibition will move to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, August 23, 2023–January 7, 2024, and will travel to the Queens Museum, N.Y., April 1–September 8, 2024. 


 Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, N.Y.) was raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and New York. Harris obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts. He attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Harris’s work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate, London, UK; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland, among others. Harris is a Professor of Art at New York University and lives in New York.


Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love is co-organized by the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University and Queens Museum, and is co-curated by Caitlin Julia Rubin, Associate Curator, Rose Art Museum, and Lauren Haynes, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs, Queens Museum.


This exhibition and accompanying catalogue (co-published by the Rose Art Museum and the Queens Museum with Gregory R. Miller & Co.) are made possible through major support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and Agnes Gund, with additional support from Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip Aarons,  David Castillo Gallery, LGDR New York, The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family, The Marieluise Hessel Foundation, and Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis, Jr.

Terra Foundation for American Art 

 WBUR 90.9 FM is the official media partner for Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love.



The Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park presents contemporary art, events of hyperlocal and international impact, and educational programs reflecting the diversity of Queens and New York City. Changing exhibitions present the work of emerging and established artists, both local and global, that often explore contemporary social issues, as well as the rich history of its site. The Museum works outside its walls through engagement initiatives ranging from multilingual outreach and educational opportunities for adult immigrants to a plethora of community-led art and activism projects. The Museum’s educational programming connects with school children, teens, families, seniors, as well as those individuals with physical and mental disabilities. The Queens Museum is located on property owned in full by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.


The Rose Art Museum fosters community, experimentation, and scholarship through direct engagement with modern and contemporary art, artists, and ideas. Founded in 1961, the Rose is among the nation’s preeminent university art museums and houses one of the most extensive collections of modern and contemporary art in New England. Through its exceptional collection, support of emerging artists, and innovative programming, the museum serves as a nexus for art and social justice at Brandeis University and beyond. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Boston, the Rose Art Museum is open Wednesdays–Sundays, 11 AM–5 PM. Admission is free. 

For more information, visit, or call 508.612.5128. Follow the Rose Art Museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Download the Rose Art Museum’s free app in the App Store.


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