Jamil Hellu: Hues
Artist Jamil Hellu has a current survey exhibition Jamil Hellu: Together at SF Camera Works in San Francisco that closes on March 14th, 2020. The exhibition is a compilation of several projects, but today we focus on Hues, a performative portraiture series about cultural lineages and queerness. As a an immigrant from Brazil with a Syrian father and Paraguayan mother, Jamil has a unique perspective where self intersects with gender and heritage.
Jamil Hellu is a visual artist whose work deals with issues of identity relating to race, queer sexuality, and gender. His work was recently included in Bay Area Now 8 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; and Sense of Self at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. He is the recipient of the San Francisco Art Commission’s Individual Artist Grant (2019/2020), Zellerbach Family Foundation’s Project Grant (2020), Fleishhacker Foundation’s Eureka Fellowship Award (2018), the Kala Art Institute Fellowship, AIR Program at Recology San Francisco, Graduate Fellowship at Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Citre Internationale des Arts residency in Paris. His work has been discussed in publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Advocate, and VICE. His latest project, Hues, was included in the latest revision of Art & Queer Culture, published in 2019 by Phaidon. Hellu studied at Cabrillo College (1999), the San Francisco Art Institute (BFA 2003), and Stanford University (MFA 2010). He teaches photography in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University.
This exhibition is generously supported by Michelle Branch, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, and the James and Doris McNamara Faculty Fund from the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University.
Jamil Hellu: Together presents a survey of works by Jamil Hellu, who, for the last decade, has developed a distinct visual vocabulary addressing the intersections of cultural lineages and queerness. Comprised of photographs and video installations, the exhibition highlights Hellu’s recurring uses of self-portraiture to activate a contemporary dialogue about the implications of cultural heritage on queer narratives. Throughout his work, Hellu creates forms of representation based on queer visibility, inverting the role of the photographer as he himself is also one of his subjects.
Hellu’s projects are often defined by a collaborative method, through which he actively engages members of the San Francisco Bay Area’s diverse LGBTQ communities, inviting participants to manipulate identity as a series of cultural constructs. His images defy binary assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality, ultimately contending that a multiplicity of contrasting queer voices co-exist simultaneously. Juxtaposing photographic imagery in jarring and often humorous ways, Hellu brings into focus the impact of discrimination and intolerance on the shaping of personal histories and thus employs the camera as a tool for fostering agency, social change, and empathy.
Work in progress
For this ongoing and expanding series, I invite members of the San Francisco Bay Area’s diverse LGBTQ communities to collaborate with me in developing a form of participatory portraiture about cultural lineages and queerness. The project dives into the intersectionality of racial, gender, and sexual identities while seeking to stress contrasting manifestations of queer heritage and sexuality.
By inserting myself into each photograph, I am interested in the conversation about what happens when the photographer leaves the space behind the camera to join his subjects in front of the lens, when the discussion is no longer about the “other” but it is now about us.
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