Malik Gaines is a writer and a performer.
His book Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017, NYU Press) traces a transnational circulation of black leftist political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond, and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. His articles have appeared in Women & Performance and Art Journal, and he has written many essays for journals, museum publications, and magazines, about artists including Julius Eastman, Judson Dance Theater, The Cockettes, Senga Nengudi, William Pope.L, Meleko Mokgosi, Wangechi Mutu, Andrea Bowers, Mark Bradford, and Charles Gaines. He received a 2019 Andy Warhol Arts Writers Grant in support of a second book, concerned with art and performances that mark the limits of the U.S. American state.
Gaines performs and exhibits on his own and in multiple collaborations. Since 2000, He has worked with collaborators Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade as the group My Barbarian. Their work uses musical/theatrical and critical techniques to playfully act out social difficulties. The trio has presented work at MoMA, The Kitchen, New Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), LACMA, REDCAT, MOCA (Los Angeles), SFMoMA (San Francisco), ICA (Philadelphia), Power Plant, (Toronto), ICA (London), De Appel (Amsterdam), El Matadero (Madrid), Peres Projects (Berlin), Torpedo (Oslo), Galleria Civica (Trento), Townhouse Gallery (Cairo), and many others. My Barbarian has had solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; Gallery 400, University of Illinois, Chicago; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Yaffo 23, Jerusalem, Israel; Transformer Gallery, Washington DC; Human Resources, Los Angeles; Museo El Eco, Mexico City; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Participant Inc., New York. The group was included in the Whitney Biennial (2014), Baltic Triennial (2009), Montreal Biennial (2007), California Biennial (2008, 2006), and Performa Biennial (2007, 2005). My Barbarian has received grants and awards from United States Artists, the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Creative Capital, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs, and Art Matters. Their work has been discussed in the New Yorker, New York Times, LA Times, Artforum, Art in America, Frieze, Texte zur Kunst, Bomb and various international newspapers, and by scholars including Shannon Jackson in The Drama Review, Tavia Nyong’o in Social Text, and José Muñoz in his book Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. They are currently organizing a 20-year survey exhibition to open in the fall of 2020.
Other recent performance works have included “Star Choir” with Alexandro Segade at the Park Avenue Armory, multiple projects by the collectives A.R.M. and Courtesy the Artists, and solo works for e-flux’s “Journeys with the Initiated.” He also sings at the piano whenever he can.
Gaines has curated exhibitions and performance programs independently, including "Fade: African American Artists in LA" for the City of Los Angeles (2004) and "Quadruple-Consciousness" at Vox Populi, Philadelphia (2010); and for LAXART, where he was a curator from 2005-2012, with solo shows by Anna Sew Hoy, Kalup Linzy and Colter Jacobsen and performances by Eleanor Antin and The Bodacious Buggerrilla, and as co-curator of the Hammer Museum's biennial exhibition Made in LA (2012).