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The Architecture of Intimacy

Updated: May 3

Clifford Prince King gets intimate with Public Art Fund.

'the fear of letting go' 2023

Clifford Prince King’s photographs skirt several delicate lines simultaneously: the line between bashful & brazen, voyeuristic & intimate, lighthearted & solemn. The photographs featured in a multi-city exhibition by the Public Art Fund invite the viewer into a frank & rarified space, one that questions the ideas of comfort, who is allowed to enjoy it, & how we find access to it. Comfort: precious, disposable, seductive, plain, all at once, much like King’s photographs. 

A talk held at Cooper Union between King & aesthetic predecessor Lyle Ashton Harris shed light on their photography & the artistic process — the two of them chatted like old pals before a packed house about each other’s work as a slideshow of their photographs cycled continuously behind them. I was struck by the inclusion in this slideshow of a bus banner by artist Gran Fury that was run during the AIDS epidemic showing various people kissing (two men, two women, a man & a woman), with the headline, “Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed & Indifference Do”. What a catchphrase! Such a defiant encapsulation of fear & its obverse: rage. Enter Clifford Prince King with his soft-spoken, shy approach to Black gay intimacy & you have the evolution of the public display of queer life; it is perhaps just as revolutionary as Fury’s blunt catchphrase to show Black men in moments of such softness. Maybe, King’s work suggests, such softness is the revolution we’ve really been waiting for.

Some anecdotes: Mr. King grew up in Tucson watching Disney Channel. His dad made videos of DIY home projects with a VHS camcorder. King’s first camera came from his high school shutting down their darkroom program. He met a few of his models for this project on Grindr. He relaxes by watching Love After Lockup. How does he navigate the architecture of intimacy? Well, that’s a story anyone holds close to their breast — King’s is made tangible through his photographs, a glance captured at the right moment, something tender, something fleeting, but always with the bittersweet aftertaste of afternoon sunshine, greed & indifference be damned. 

—Art Fart

All images courtesy the artist; STARS Gallery, Los Angeles; and Gordon Robichaux, New York.

Presented by Public Art Fund as a part of Clifford Prince King: Let me know when you get home, an exhibition on 300 JCDecaux bus shelters and newsstands in New York, Chicago, and Boston, February 21–May 26, 2024.


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