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Come home Charley Patton. Photo by Eric Stone..^2 (the efflorescence of) Walter at The Kitchen. Photo by Rashida Bumbray.^2 Come home Charley Patton. Photo by Dan Merlo.^2 How Can You Stay In The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? Photo by Dan Merlo.^2 Come home Charley Patton. Photo by Dan Merlo.^2 How Can You Stay In The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? Photo by Dan Merlo.^2 Walter Carter. Photo by Ralph Lemon.^2

Ralph Lemon/Cross Performance

Ralph Lemon: 1856 Cessna Road 

Ralph Lemon: 1856 Cessna Road is a mixed media solo exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem that runs from March 29 - May 27, 2012. The exhibition explores memory, memorialization and cultural translation in large-scale color photographs, a video installation and a series of 30 drawings made into video animation. The exhibition is the culmination of Lemon's eight-year friendship and rich artistic collaboration with Walter Carter (1907-2010) in Little Yazoo, Mississippi.

Lemon met Carter during a 2002 research trip to the Mississippi Delta and developed a friendship that quickly evolved into a collaboration in Carter's house, in his backyard, along a country road or in a nearby juke joint. Together they developed "scores" for Carter to perform that varied from task-oriented instructions to reenactments of scenes from science-fiction films. If asked, Carter described it as strange "work" that he enjoyed. Over time, Lemon got to know Carter's wife, Edna, and his extended family and neighbors, some of whom in turn became involved in the art-making. This shared experience became inspiration and fodder for a number of Lemon's performances, exhibitions and writings over the years. 

1856 Cessna Road was Lemon's debut exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem and the first time this suite of works was shown in New York City.

(the efflorescence of) Walter

(the efflorescence of) Walter is a continually developing mixed-media exhibition created by Ralph Lemon and composed of drawings, text, sculptural elements, projected videos and animations. The installations form an unpredictable and eerily poetic narrative that references sources as diverse as the writer James Baldwin, conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, African-American folktale character Br'er Rabbit, and Lemon's own collection of 45rpm records. The central figure of Walter Carter (1907-2010) a former sharecropper, carpenter and gardener from Bentonia, MS with whom Lemon had an ongoing relationship for eight years,  ties these threads together, raising questions about memory, memorialization and transcendence.

Lemon and Carter were introduced in 2002 by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, owner of the Blue Front Cafe, one of the few remaining juke joints in the Delta. The two continued to meet twice a year to collaborate in Carter's house, in his backyard, along a country road or in a nearby juke joint. They discussed and acted, and documented and filmed their actions. If asked, Carter would likely describe it as strange "work" that he enjoys. Over time, Lemon got to know Carter's wife, Edna, his extended family (nine children and twenty-one grandchildren), and neighbors, who in turn became involved in the art-making.

The first version of(the efflorescence of) Walter, exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in March-June 2006, included video from Lemon and Carter's work together as well as set pieces and animations from Lemon's performance work, Come home Charley Patton.

The second version, curated by Anthony Allen and Claire Tancons, was exhibited at The Kitchen in New York City in May-June 2007. That show included video chapters of Walter at work and play, as well as animations, sound, drawings and sculptural/set elements created by Lemon. In addition, Lemon commissioned Carter's son, Warren Carter and a neighbor, Lloyd Williams, to build a spaceship for The Kitchen exhibit from backyard debris. The process of building and moving the spaceship to New York City was a performative aspect of the installation.

A later incarnation of (the efflorescence of) Walter was installed at the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans in January-March 2008, where the work also took on new meaning in relationship to the complex cultural memory and present of post-Katrina New Orleans.