Assembly Room is pleased to present PLAYS ON CAMP, a group show curated by Ksenia Soboleva and featuring works by Leilah Babirye, Buzz Slutzky, and Nathan Storey Freeman.
CAMP is making a comeback.
But this is not the MET Gala.
What does camp mean to a generation of young queer artists today? Does it still hold power in its potential to blur the lines between work and play, good and bad, silly and mature? Or, is camp a Western-inflected aesthetic paradigm that loses meaning beyond its specific socio-historical and geographic context? Plays on Camp asks three New York based queer artists with wildly different backgrounds to play with the notion of camp. Buzz Slutzky tells the story of their top-surgery in a comedic performance video that tackles expectations of gender transition narratives, karaoke, and hallucinations. Nathan Storey Freeman ever so narcissistically explores the theatricality of life through a multi-media installation inspired by Lacan’s mirror-stage. Leilah Babirye elevates clay beyond the merely decorative in a wall-bound assemblage that retains the childlike innocence of the medium while simultaneously imbuing it with social commentary. This exhibition does not provide any answers on the state of Camp, but aims to demonstrate that it is a shifting concept – powerful to some, and futile to others.
Feel free to dress up.
Ksenia M. Soboleva is an independent curator, writer, and PhD Candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. She holds a BA in Art History from Utrecht University and an MA from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. Soboleva's dissertation focuses on lesbian artists and the AIDS crisis in New York (1981-1996), framing it within a larger genealogy of lesbian (in)visibility. Her research interests include feminist and queer theory, the history of gender and sexuality, performance studies, and animal imagery. Previously, Soboleva has curated exhibitions at the 80WSE Project Space, The Institute of Fine Arts, Honey’s, SPRING/BREAK Art Show, and Stellar Projects. She has taught at NYU and the Cooper Union, and presented her research at various institutions in the United States and abroad. In Fall 2019, Soboleva co-organized the Queering Art History symposium at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. Soboleva’s writings have appeared in Hyperallergic, art-agenda, and The Archive.
Leilah Babirye (Born 1985, Kampala, Uganda) lives in the Bronx and works in Brooklyn, New York. She studied art at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda (2007–2010) and participated in the Fire Island Artist Residency (2015). In 2018, she received asylum in the US with support from the African Services Committee and the NYC Anti-Violence Project, and presented her first solo exhibition at Gordon Robichaux, NY. Her work was recently included in Strange Attractors at Kerry Schuss gallery (curated by Bob Nickas); a presentation by CANADA gallery at Frieze; and in the Socrates Annual at Socrates Sculpture Park. Babirye has participated in numerous panel discussions, most recently the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair and the Black Lesbian Conference at Barnard College. Her work will be included in Flight: A Collective History at the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (curated by Serubiri Moses) and in Stonewall 50 at The Contemporary Arts Museum (CAMH), Houston, Texas. Profiles on Babirye and her art were recently published in Cultured Magazine, New York Magazine, Modern Painters, OUT Magazine, and Raw Material: A Podcast from SFMOMA (Season 4; Luvvers).
Buzz Slutzky is a non-binary transgender and Ashkenazi Jewish artist, writer, educator, and performer whose practice incorporates drawing, painting, sculpture, and video. Their autobiographical and research-based practices build upon trans, queer, feminist, and leftist Jewish cultural traditions with an often humorous and frank voice. Slutzky has exhibited, performed, and screened at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Cooper Union, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), The Leslie Lohman Museum, Boston Center for the Arts, La Mama, MIX, Frameline, among others. Mentions of Slutzky’s work have appeared in Artforum, Vice, Art F City, ArtNews, Observer, Hyperallergic, and The New York Times. Buzz has also co/organized art exhibitions relating to queerness, humor, politics, and history, including the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History (2011), Hysterically Accurate: Comedic Critiques of History (2015), and Queering Space (2016). Slutzky earned their BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2010, and their MFA from Parsons the New School for Design in 2015. They currently teach at SUNY Purchase College and CUNY College of Staten Island.
Nathan Storey Freeman is a Texas born artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. His interdisciplinary studio practice explores queer methodologies of performance, gesture, perception, montage, and ephemera. His recent projects include installations and performances at Assembly Room, New York; PS120, Berlin; Honey's, Brooklyn; 80WSE Gallery, New York; and the Institute of Fine Arts, New York. Nathan received his Bachelors of Fine Arts with High Honors from New York University in 2018. He is a recipient of the 2018 New York University Art & Art Professions Baccalaureate Banner Bearer & Dais Party Honor, the Jack Goodman Award, The May and Samuel Rudin Foundation Multimedia Award, and is a Dean's Global Honors Scholar. In 2019, Nathan founded SUBLIMATION, an artist-run project space supporting intersectional, exploratory, and multidisciplinary works by emerging artists. The project will commence on May 31, 2019 at Stellar Projects in New York’s Lower East Side.