Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam

Galerie Ron Mandos is proud to present an important archival exhibition on Isaac Julien’s seminal poetic film Looking for Langston (1989). The series is an homage by acclaimed artist Isaac Julien (1960, London) to Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. This award-winning film, shown in it's original 16 mm format, is accompanied by photographic work that explores the fractured narratives of memory and desire. 

  • OPENING during Amsterdam Art Weekend Friday, November, 25, 5 – 10 pm Join us during the openingEvent page
  • CONVERSATION with Isaac Julien Saturday, November, 26, 12:30 – 1:30 pm Amsterdam Art Weekend SpecialEvent page 
  • YES, WE ARE OPEN during the Holidays December 28 - 31; regular opening hours 12 - 6 pm. Except the 31st of December when we are open until 4 pm

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an American poet and writer. With his poems Hughes fought for awareness and empowerment in the African-American community, and against racism and discrimination. Although it was commonly presumed that he was gay, he never openly came out. Julien's film portrays Langston Hughes as an African-American cultural icon with a repressed gay desire. He explores the ambiguous sexual subtexts of a period of rich artistic expression, and the enduring cultural significance of these pioneers’ work.

Julien mediates with a poetic, lyrical perspective on Langston Hughes coming out. The film shows a juxtaposition between the past and the present. The Harlem Renaissance was a flowering of African-American social thought that was expressed through the arts in the 1920s. Extracts from Hughes' poetry is interwoven with the work of cultural figures from the 1920s and 1980s, including black poets Essex Hemphill (1957-1995) and Bruce Nugent (1906-1987), constructing a lyrical and multilayered narrative. 

An important aspect of Looking for Langston is it's timely treatment of the above themes. Julien contrasts the ravages of the AIDS epidemic - which was at its height during filming - with this lyrical exploration of the past.

While Julien was directing the film, he studied the photographs of James Van der Zee, George Platt Lynes and Robert Mapplethorpe. Working with Nina Kellgren (cinematographer) and Sunil Gupta (photographer), he created three photographic series. These photographs deploy an array of old and new technologies. For Julien, the photographs act as memorial sites. One can see a direct relation between these images imbued with references to the history of 1930s black and white African-American photography and 1980s queer cultures.

Isaac Julien is a Turner prize nominated artist and filmmaker. Julien has pioneered a form of multi-screen installations, including light-boxes and photographic works with ''Western Union: Small Boats'' (2007), ''Ten Thousand Waves'' (2010) and ''Playtime: Kapital'' (2014) which were featured in the 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015). He has exhibited his work in museums and institutions across the world including ''Ten Thousand Waves'' at Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013-2014), which was exhibited at Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2016). In 2015, Julien had a retrospective entitled ''RIOT'' at the De Pont Museum (Tilburg, the Netherlands). His work was featured in the group show ''The 1980s'' at the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, the Netherlands). In 2016, he showed ''Playtime'' and ''Kapital'' at El Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City. Julien's work ''Territories'' is also on view at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Julien is currently producing a new work that is a poetic meditation on aspects of the life and architecture of Lina Bo Bardi. The first chapter of this work, ''Stones Against Diamonds'', was shown during 2015's La Biennale di Venezia, Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, and is currently also showing together with Looking for Langston at Galerie Ron Mandos. After teaching at Harvard University (1998-2002), Julien was Professor of Media Art at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe (2009-2015) and Chair of Global Art at University of Arts London (2014-2016).

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ABOUT Isaac Julien

Filmmaker and installation artist, Isaac Julien CBE RA, was born in 1960 in London, where he currently lives and works. His multi-screen film installations and photographs incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. His 1989 documentary-drama exploring author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance titled Looking for Langston garnered Julien a cult following while his 1991 debut feature Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Having recently worked on conserving and restoring Looking for Langston images from his extensive archive, he exhibited of photographic works at Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2017), Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco (2016) and Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam (2016) with a screening of the film in its original 16mm print at Tate Britain.

Julien’s solo exhibitions and presentations include Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town (2017); Platform-L Contemporary Art Centre, Seoul (2017); The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2017); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2016); MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2016); De Pont Museum, Netherlands (2015); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2013); The Bass Museum, Miami (2010); Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2009); Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2005); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2005) and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2005). His latest work, Stones Against Diamonds, was shown in 2015 as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Programme at the Venice Biennale, at Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach.

Julien participated in the Venice Biennale at the inaugural Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th edition in 2017 with Western Union: Small Boats. Previously, he presented Kapital and directed Das Kapital Oratorio in the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor, in 2015. His work has also been exhibited in the 7th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2008); Prospect 1, New Orleans (2008); Performa 07, New York (2007) and in documenta 11, Kassel (2002).

Julien’s work is held in collections that include: Tate, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; the LUMA Foundation, Arles; the Kramlich Collection; the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town. In 2016 the Towner Art Gallery Collection (Eastbourne, UK) acquired Ten Thousand Waves (2010) as part of a Moving Image Fund program. Ten Thousand Waves, a globally acclaimed multiple screen installation work, premiered at the 2010 Sydney Biennale and has gone on to be exhibited extensively - recently at Platform-L in Seoul (2017) and Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2016) as well as the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2013, with whom he also published a comprehensive monographic survey of his life and work, titled ‘Riot’.

Julien has taught extensively, holding posts such as Chair of Global Art at University of Arts London (2014-2016) and Professor of Media Art at Staatliche Hoscschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Germany (2008 – 2016). He is the recipient of the James Robert Brudner ‘83 Memorial Prize and Lectures at Yale University (2016). Most recently he received the Charles Wollaston Award (2017), for most distinguished work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and in 2018, he was made a Royal Academician. Julien was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours, 2017.