In his work, Kha photographs his own body to create life size cutouts of his body and masks of his face. Using these cutouts and masks, he then rephotographs them in various scenarios interacting with a regular cast of sitters including his mother, Queer, and Asian figures, and in different geographic settings—often taking place in the South. These rephotographs echo performances of and around his self, resulting in a photograph and subject sitting somewhere between a still life, portrait and self-portrait, and landscape.
Through the camera, Kha’s rephotographs, or “pictures of pictures”, are sourced directly from an autobiographical archive, transformed into seemingly minimal collage work done within the camera. The cutouts change in appearance, whereas the masks manifest as different materials—either as 3-D printed, cloth, or paper—both never remain the exact, same form. The jigsaw puzzles echo the cutouts, though they often appear never fully assembled.
The images consistently point out how out-of-place his photographed body is, echoing his everyday experiences. Specifically with the mask, Kha resituates his face on Queer, Asian, and Southern bodies—or simply, bodies he desires to have, thereby making himself more queer, more Asian, more Southern. His work shifts between comedy and tragedy, familiarity and foreignness, performer and camera operator. In short, Kha’s work is about the self in self-portrait, the portrait in self-portrait, and the hyphen in self-portrait.
Insensitive Flesh is dedicated in memory of William Kiersky.
Tommy Kha (b. 1988, Memphis, Tennessee) received his Photography MFA from Yale University. His work has been published in Vice Magazine, Modern Painters, Slate, the Huffington Post, BUTT Magazine, Hyperallergic, Buzzfeed, and Miranda July’s “We Think Alone” and exhibited at Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Teen Party, Aperture, Yongkang Lu Art in Shanghai, and Kunstverein Wolfsburg in Germany. He is a Hyères Photography finalist, an En Foco Photography Fellowship recipient, and a former artist-in-residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, Light Work, Fountainhead, and Baxter Street at the Camera Club of New York. Through Aint-Bad, Kha published his first monograph, A Real Imitation. He appeared in Laurie Simmons’ narrative feature, My Art. His work was the cover of Vice Magazine’s 2017 Photography Issue. His first solo show debuted at Blue Sky Gallery. This is Kha’s first solo show in New York City and has a forthcoming exhibition at LMAK Gallery in fall 2019. He currently lives and works in New York City.