Malik Gaines is a writer and artist involved with performances.
His articles have appeared in Women & Performance and Art Journal, and in magazines including Artforum. Gaines has written many essays for museum books, about artists including the Judson Dance Theater, Lorraine O’Grady, Senga Nengudi, Pope.L, Jacolby Satterwhite, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ed Bereal, and many others. His book Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017, NYU Press) traces a circulation of black leftist political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond, and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. 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 U.S. sovereignty.
Gaines performs and composes on his own and in multiple collaborations. He has recently been developing the vocal music piece “Star Choir,” about a group of humans who attempt to colonize another planet, with support from the Park Avenue Armory, William College, and other residencies.
Since 2000, He has performed and exhibited with collaborators Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade as the group My Barbarian, whose work uses musical/theatrical and critical techniques to playfully act out social difficulties. The trio is presenting a survey of their work at the Whitney Museum, New York in 2021, and has presented performance work at MoMA, The Kitchen, New Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), LACMA, REDCAT, MOCA (Los Angeles), Power Plant, (Toronto), De Appel (Amsterdam), El Matadero (Madrid), Galleria Civica (Trento), Townhouse Gallery (Cairo), and many others. My Barbarian has had solo exhibitions at venues including the New Museum, New York; Gallery 400, Chicago; Museo El Eco, Mexico City; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Participant Inc., New York, and is represented by Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles. 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, Art Matters, and the City of Los Angeles. 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 is currently co-artistic director of The Industry, a Los Angeles-based experimental opera company. 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; and as co-curator of the Hammer Museum's biennial exhibition Made in LA (2012).