Isaac Julien showcases his solo exhibition ‘Film-Noir Angels’ at the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery which features his film Looking for Langston (1989). The film explores the private world of Langston Hughes and his fellow African-American artists and writers who formed the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.
The exhibition also contains some of Julien’s original silver gelatin photographic works and large-scale photographs coming from scenes in the film. As historic as the story of what the film is about, the film itself has some personal and cultural significance for Julien.
Originally shot in 1989, the film is set in 1920s New York with a 1940s-film noir feel, shot in sumptuous monochrome and several of the actors died after the film was made due to the AIDS epidemic. As it stands, the film symbolises the hurdles, calamities and struggles of what gay culture had withstands — and what continues today.
The poems narrated in the film exhilarates the spirit of gay youth today. To the mainstream, it felt like hopping into a pocket of queer history you would have never imagined existed. ‘BLACK AND GAY’ – written in bold letters, shown in one of the first few minutes. It features the life of Langston and African-American gays in 1920s Harlem, surreal images of angels following their every move, presented gracefully and poetically with suits and champagne in stunning black-and-white.
Julien himself walked us through each piece and gave some commentary as the film was playing in the background. He is unapologetic about the importance of visual pleasure and pursuit of beauty with his body of work. The award-winning film has recently been shown at MoMA New York and Tate Britain last year. It will also be part of this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival.
Kevin R. is a 22-year-old Sydney local who enjoys craft beer, theatre and all things culture. Follow his adventures at @kevinr___.
‘Film-Noir Angels’Looking for Langston runs 23 January to 3 March 2018 at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, 8 Soudan Lane, Paddington NSW.