Hannah Traore Gallery presents Quiladelphia, photographer and Philadelphia native Quil Lemons‘ first solo show with the gallery. In this new series, Lemons’ curiosity for and exploration into self allows him to offer a deeper retrospective of representations of the Black male form. His images act as intimate dissections of his own queer psyche, providing a new perspective on Black masculinity and breaking the barriers of gender and sexual orientation for his audience. Quiladelphia is an enigmatic experience that questions, reflects, and dismantles stereotypical views of what vulnerability looks like for the Black man.
“I wanted to welcome folks into what it is to live life as a Black gay man. I let my camera navigate everything I see. When it came to shooting, I was letting people into my brain. It was not to make Black nudity and sex into art. Everything I embody is what these images are and mean to me. This is ME. Welcome to my brain.” –Quil Lemons
Photographed on film using a variety of cameras, each image offers a seat at Lemons’ table. His work insists that viewers let their guard down and dive into places some may find uncomfortable, and others may find intoxicating. He playfully tethers this line to concepts from the world of kink and draws references to creators like Lyle Ashton Harris, Mark Morrisroe, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Robert Mapplethorpe—paying homage to their work, while incorporating modern technology to frame these references as entirely his own.
Just over forty years after the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis, Lemons’ portraits contribute to a continuation of artwork that intentionally reclaims a space for joy and pleasure in queer sexuality. Juxtaposing monochromatic images with the tender faces of his friends—some old and some new—Lemons showcases a tender and sensual beauty only his vision could provide through hints of laced fishnets, subtle leather, and chains. His muses are an array of men whose identities range from straight to trans and queer, working within a plethora of industries from fashion to sex work. Lemons’ friends are not only his community, but also his creative contemporaries who make artwork that, like his photographs, expand the art historical cannon and Black consciousness.
“A lot of this is repression. Younger me would not even take these images. Half my family is Muslim and half Christian. To be able to do this took a lot of healing, self-acceptance, and bravery, to be able to just walk out of my house and be a Black gay person. I would truly rather die than to not live my life as freely as I do. I don’t want to die with what ifs and having questions as to if I was ever my true self.” –Quil Lemons
This new work marks an intersection of themes investigated in Lemons’ previous photography projects such as Boy Parts, a series that explores the interplay of masculinity and femininity irrespective of sexual identity, and 6 7, a documentation of a family block party celebrating his grandmother’s 67th birthday in Philadelphia. While in past series Lemons has welcomed the audience into his hometown through relatives and neighbors, Quiladelphia is an expansive portrait of the artist’s chosen family: one that is vulnerable, personal, raw, and complex—encouraging unlimited iterations of Black life in America.
Quil Lemons is a New York based photographer, originally hailing from Philadelphia. His visual language is distinct and interrogates ideas around masculinity, family, queerness, race, and beauty. Quil’s work dances the line between the fantastic and realistic, resulting in disruptive images that feel like pure imagination, while simultaneously grounding us in references to our current cultural climate. His images can be found in publications such as Allure, Garage, i-D, Shadowplay, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Variety, and W, among others. His clients include Burberry, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Guess, Gucci, Moncler, Nike, Nordstrom, SSense, and Valentino, among others.
Quil has previously exhibited at International Center of Photography, New York, 2021, in Lincoln Center at the American Ballet Theatre’s Fall Season, New York, 2021, Aperture’s New Black Vanguard, New York, 2019, Kuumba Festival, Toronto, 2019, and Contact Festival, Toronto, 2018. He has given artist talks at Fotografiska in New York, and ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He launched a capsule collection with Sky High Farm Workwear titled “Farm Boys Do It Better” in February 2023 and is currently a Contributing Art Director at the brand.
Quil Lemons : Quiladelphia
September 6-November 4, 2023
Opening September 6, 2023 | 6-8PM
Hannah Traore Gallery
150 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002