Malik Gaines is a writer and artist. His work deals with performance practice and theory, black representation, and queer social tactics.
Gaines’s book Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017, NYU Press) traces a transnational circulation of political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond. His published articles include “The Quadruple-Consciousness of Nina Simone” in Women & Performance, “City After 50 Years’ Living: LA’s Differences in Relation” in Art Journal, and many essays and interviews about art and performance for journals, magazines, museum publications, and monographs for artists such as Andrea Bowers, Mark Bradford, Charles Gaines, Sharon Hayes, and Glenn Ligon. His current research for a second book is concerned with performances and artworks that mark the limits of state power.
Since 2000, Gaines has performed and exhibited 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 venues including 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 (2016); Gallery 400, University of Illinois, Chicago (2014); Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects (2013); Yaffo 23, Jerusalem, Israel (2013); Transformer Gallery, Washington DC (2012); Human Resources, Los Angeles (2012); Museo El Eco, Mexico City (2010); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010); and Participant Inc., New York (2009). 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 the Foundation for Contemporary Art (2013), Creative Capital (2012), City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs (2010), and Art Matters (2008). 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. Gaines works in other collaborative groups as well, and also makes solo music performance.
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).