Light Work and Urban Video Project Announce 2021 Fall Exhibitions

Light Work announces its 2021 Fall exhibitions, which will occupy its two galleries and outdoor architectural projection site, Urban Video Project. Light Work annually presents a rotating schedule of exhibitions by emerging and previously excluded artists working in photography and digital imaging. Works appearing in our Kathleen O. Ellis and Hallway Galleries, and at UVP’s site on the Everson Museum of Art’s north facade, represent artists working at the forefront of lens-based practices in a wide variety of subjects. After closing our gallery doors to the public on March 13, 2020, and shifting programming to virtual platforms, we’re thrilled to reopen and welcome patrons back in person into our exhibition spaces for gallery openings, artist talks, and curator conversations. As Light Work approaches our fiftieth anniversary, we will continue our core mission of support to artists through exhibitions, residencies, and the production of the award-winning Contact Sheet publication.

Current hours are Monday thru Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Light Work closes on all Syracuse University and federal holidays. Find Light Work in the Robert B. Menschel Media Center at 316 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse, New York, 13224.

Kathleen O. Ellis and Hallway Galleries

Clifford Prince King We Used to Lay Together

In Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery, the fall season begins with We Used to Lay Together, an exhibition from Los Angeles-based photographer Clifford Prince King. A self-taught queer Black artist, King uses his life and experiences as starting points to explore desire, intimacy, and daily life. He often depicts himself and others within the beige domestic spaces common to LA. We see a brotherhood of men enacting moments of domestic bliss, nude bodies in the moments before or after a sexual encounter, and the daily routine and side effects of living with HIV. King’s colorful images show us the casual intimacy of his life in Los Angeles. It has been a joy for us at Light Work to learn about his approach, influences, and experience as we have collaborated on curating this exhibition. As his community confronts erasure and heteronormative flattening of their identity, we’re excited to share this insider’s intentional gaze.

The King exhibition runs from Monday, August 23 through Thursday, October 14, 2021. Reception for King and his artist’s gallery talk on Thursday, September 16, at 6 p.m. in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery.

image: Clifford Prince King, Sonny and David, 2019 

Queer Moments: Selections from the Light Work Collection

In the Hallway Gallery, Queer Moments: Selections from the Light Work Collection highlights the historical contributions of LGBTQ+ artists to the Light Work Collection with work from artists who have participated in Light Work programs: Laura Aguilar, Samantha Box, Jess T. Dugan, John Edmonds, Ajamu (Ikwe-Tyehimba), Mark McKnight, Rory Mulligan, Billy Quinn, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Pacifico Silano, Clarissa Sligh, Linn Underhill, and Albert Winn. This exhibition highlights image-making practices and themes that document and comment upon LGBTQ+ history through photography. The images reflect narratives in particular historical moments, for example, in the AIDS crisis, from Albert Winn’s Band-Aid Series (1999) to Pacifico Silano’s Untitled (2016). These artists used their cameras to boldly confront inequities in our society and also give visual expression to the varied experiences of marginalized communities.

Queer Moments remains on view in the Hallway Gallery from August 23 through October 2021.

image: Samantha Box, Bama, Omar and Devin, 2008

Urban Video Project Exhibitions and Collaborations

2021 Horizons: New Film Out of Central New York

Light Work’s Urban Video Project will screen film shorts from 2021 Horizons: New Film Out of Central New York award recipients as part of a continued commitment to collaboration with regional partners. The CNY Short Film Competition is a juried program administered by the Innovation Group of CNY Arts, which supports promising young filmmakers who have recently graduated from an accredited film or media program in the Central New York region. By drawing upon the region’s unique cultural and geographic characteristics, winning filmmakers explore a wide variety of storytelling perspectives.

The one-night screening will be on the run Friday, October 1, at UVP’s outdoor projection site on the north facade of the Everson Museum of Art at 401 Harrison Street, Thursday through Saturday, from dusk until 9 p.m.

image: Carlton Daniel Jr.’s Homegoing installation view

Hito Stereyl: Strike

Urban Video Project’s program year continues with world-renowned artist Hito Steyerl’s Strike (2010). Steyerl’s work explores late capitalism’s social, cultural, and financial imaginaries. Strike is a short, humorous film squarely in the tradition of Fluxus performance and wordplay. The title of the work plays on the double meaning of the word “strike.” Most obviously, a strike is a physically violent gesture, in this case against a flatscreen monitor, both a commodity and an object that, when working, “disappears” behind the spectacle it presents. On the other hand, a strike is a strategic refusal to work. The double meaning here short circuits our contemporary split identity as consumer-workers.

Strike will be on view September 16 thru December 11, 2021, at UVP’s outdoor projection site on the north facade of the Everson Museum of Art at 401 Harrison Street, Thursday through Saturday, from dusk until 11 p.m.

image: Installation view of Strike projected on the facade of the Everson Museum

Re:Collection John Banasiak on Phil Block

Visitors to Light Work’s website are invited to explore thousands of photographic works and objects from the Light Work Collection in our online database that expands access of work by former Light Work artists to students, researchers, and online visitors. Our Re:Collection blog series invites artists and respected thinkers in the field to select a single image or object from the archive and offer a reflection as to its historical, technical, or personal significance.

Today we’re sharing a reflection on John Banasiak’s image of Light Work co-founder Phil Block. In unique Re:Collection twist, Banasiak, the portrait image-maker, is also the author, offering contemplative insights on this early organization champion and the impact of artist residency on his photography practice.

In 1977, I had the good fortune of being one of Light Work’s first artists-in-residence. Invited by Phil Block and Tom Bryan, I spent the month of October printing some of the negatives from my ongoing series of nightwork and interacting with a community of people who appreciated the beauty and poetic language of photography. I also had the honor of having my work appear in the first issue of Contact Sheet. 

I came from Chicago in an Oldsmobile Delta ‘88, a “Drive Away Car” I was hired to drive and drop off at a car dealership somewhere in Syracuse. I parked in front of Light Work on Waverly, put out my cigar, walked up the front steps, and into Phil Block’s office. It was like I was reuniting with a brother or cousin I hadn’t seen in a long while. His friendly, laid-back, good-humored nature made me feel as if I had known him all my life. He happened to know the car dealership that I needed to get to, so we drove out and back and had some great talks and told each other a bunch of good stories. Soon they showed me around the facility and introduced me to a few of the people who were there—Karl Baden, Dave Broda, Marion Faller, Bill Gandino, Peter Glendinning, Judith Ivry, and others. Tom Bryant would show up occasionally and drive me around to some of the interesting sites of the surrounding countryside. 

Within a day or two, I was mixing up some Selectol in the back darkroom and printing from my stack of 4×5 negatives, occasionally stepping out in the hall to dry my test strips, sipping Pelican Punch tea from the food co-op just down the hall from the darkroom, and talking with some of the students and photo addicts who hung out in the studio.   

Along with having the opportunity to print, I also explored the area and gathered some new work as I wandered through the neighborhoods, strolled the boulevards (Genesee), and parks (Thornden) of the area. I had falafels at King David’s, cheesecake from the Snow Flake Bakery, shots and beer with the locals at the Orange. I danced to the tropical country music of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks at the Jabberwocky across the street from Light Work. I ate dinners of crustless quiche with Susan Narucki, a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice who, as a work/study, took care of the Light Work darkroom and went on to international acclaim as a Grammy-winning soprano for her recording of George Crumb’s “Star Child” in 2000. I took evening swims in the University pool. Phil and I occasionally went out at night and listened to the local music. There was a great diversity in music available on campus, but Phil and I both liked jazz and blues so we hit some of those places. Phil had a stand-up bass that he sometimes played at home while listening to Thelonious Monk, or Coltrane, and I thought he was pretty good.

The mix and steady flow of photographers and visiting artists though those days at Light Work always provided an infusion of good creative thought and energy. Light Work was very connected with what was going on at the Everson Museum, as well as what was happening at Syracuse University’s art school and galleries. Clement Greenberg lectured one evening, Bill Owens talked about his book Suburbia, Marion Post Wolcott reflected on her time with the WPA, and one afternoon Michael Jennings read some of his poetry at the Dorothea Lange exhibition at the Everson. It was a stimulating time and I knew I would have a difficult time leaving. Former teachers of mine, Charles Harbutt and Joe Jachna, were there a few months before me. Cal Kowal was coming as an artist-in-residence just after me—I had worked with him at Ox-Bow Summer School of Art the year before and was going to miss him by just a couple of months.  

My time at Light Work solidified my enjoyment and affection for the college environment and the creative energy that can emerge and grow there. After I left at the beginning of November, I decided to think more about teaching and being a part of a creative community in a college environment. Soon after leaving Syracuse and Light Work, Phil called me and asked me if I might be able to get away from Chicago to take over a one-year position teaching photography up at SUNY Oswego. Returning to upstate New York sounded great. I called Tom Eckersley, the chair in Oswego’s College of Art, and the next thing I knew, I was loading up a U-Haul and heading to Oswego.

My year in Oswego was inspirational. Occasionally it included trips down to Syracuse (via Heid’s hot dog stand in Liverpool) to visit Phil and Light Work. It also began a chain of events that led to alternative process workshops at Auckland University and Christchurch University in New Zealand and eventually to a position in the College of Fine Art at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion where, this August, I am heading into my 42nd year of teaching an ever-changing mix of the old and new processes and visual dialects of photography.   

Phil Block and Light Work have played a significant part in my growth and development as an artist and as an educator, and I will always feel affection and gratitude for all that they have generously given me. One final thing that I’d like to mention. When I did drive out to Oswego to teach for that year back in 1978, one of the first photography students I met when I was putting together my classes was a talented young artist by the name of Paul Pearce. I see now that he will be a Light Work Grants recipient for this coming year. His work continues to be personal, revealing, and meaningful. I look forward to seeing some of his new work, and I wish him the best, and I hope that he has a creative, productive, and inspirational time at Light Work.   

Find more of John Banasiak’s work online here.

Explore the Light Work Collection online at