In a multidisciplinary practice that includes videos, performances and music, Kalup Linzy creates satirical narratives inspired by television soap operas, telenovelas and Hollywood melodramas. Bringing an irreverent approach to stereotypes of race, gender and sexuality, Linzy performs, most often in drag, in a series of memorable recurring roles. The artist serves as writer, director, cinematographer, editor, and actor—and, in a distinctive strategy, also voices and overdubs the dialogue of multiple characters. At once comic, raunchy and poignant, Linzy's unique narrative videos fuse dramatic intensity with melodramatic irony.
Linzy's low-tech narratives embody a DIY sensibility, an approach that extends to the multiple contexts and formats in which he presents his works: Linzy has released his short videos episodically on YouTube, and they are also widely seen in artworld venues. Linzy also performs live in the guise of his recurring characters, and in 2008 released an album of original R&B songs, SweetBerry Sonnet. In a suite of music videos made to accompany the songs on the album, Linzy performs with sublime theatricality as the characters Taiwan, Labisha, Jada and Nucuavia; with titles such as "Dirty Trade" and "Hot Mess," the songs trace an arc of desire and loss.
Linzy's video narratives are at once outrageously funny and oddly touching. All My Churen (2003), part of his multi-episode soap-opera series, brings to melodramatic life a fictional family in the rural South, all of whose members are played, be-wigged and most often in conspicuous drag, by Linzy himself. In As da Artworld Might Turn (2006), Linzy plays an "emerging artist" in a story that skewers the New York artworld with subversive humor. Melody Set Me Free (2007) is an alternately hilarious and heartbreaking narrative about contestants in an American Idol-style talent show competition and their quest for fame and stardom. Working with a relatively large cast of artists and friends, Linzy voiced and overdubbed all of the characters' dialogue.
Linzy's newest work, Keys To Our Heart (2008) was commissioned by Creative Capital and premiered at the Prospect.1 biennial in New Orleans. Filmed on location in New Orleans, this black-and-white narrative stars Linzy as a misanthropic grande dame who dispenses advice to a trio of troubled young lovers. Linzy, who again performed all of the characters' dialogue, shot and directed Keys To Our Heart in the style of a Hollywood melodrama.
Linzy has been hailed as one of the most innovative of a new generation of queer artists, drawing comparisons to John Waters, Jack Smith and RuPaul. Writing in The New York Times, Holland Cotter observed of Linzy, "A star is born."
Kalup Linzy was born in 1977 in Stuckey, Florida. He received a BFA in 2000 and an MFA in 2003, both from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He has received awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Creative Capital Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and the Harpo Foundation. He has had solo exhibitions at The Breeder Gallery, Athens, Greece; Taxter & Spengemann, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Moore Space, Miami, FL; LAXART, Los Angeles, and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York. He has been included in group exhibitions at the Athens Biennale, Athens, Greece; The Hydra School Project, Hydra, Greece; Glasgow International: Festival of Contemporary Visual Art, Glasgow, Scotland; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art; Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia, among others. He has performed and screened work at venues including The Kitchen, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, British Film Institute, London; Beursschouwburg, Brussels, Belgium; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA. Linzy's work was included in Prospect.1 New Orleans in November 2008. In 2009, the Studio Museum in Harlem honored Linzy with Kalup Linzy: If it Don't Fit, the first museum survey of the artist's work.
Linzy lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.