Baxter St is proud to present Ghost Bites, a solo exhibition featuring recent photographic prints and vinyl images by Tommy Kha, the winner of the 2021 Aperture & Baxter St Next Step Award. As the recipient, Kha was awarded the opportunity to expand his photographic practice and mark this significant achievement with a solo exhibition. The exhibition title references ma cắn, the Vietnamese phrase that refers to mysterious scratches and bruises that appear on the skin from unknown sources. Ghost Bites explores Kha’s interests in how community and “preservation of the everyday” find expanded expression in a range of photographic forms. In addition to the exhibition, Next Step Award partner Aperture will release Half, Full, Quarter, the artist’s first ever major monograph, published in partnership with the 7G Foundation.
Ghost Bites takes as a through-line the image of a shrine, assembling Kha’s photographs depicting his friends, family, and home, as well as the landscape and architecture of the American South where the artist grew up. Also appearing in the Aperture monograph, Kha’s photographs in the show include images of actual shrines he encountered in passing near the entryways of various Asian-American homes and establishments. The artist also offers the shrine as a theoretical metaphor for photography itself, pondering how shrines, like photos, are portals to the past. Similar to the role of a shrine, photography can consecrate, transform, and transport its subjects.
Included in the works on view is a selection of photographs taken by Kha’s mother, as well as photo-sculptures inspired by customized trinkets peddled in gift shops and online. The images are connected to Kha’s own family’s immigration, a journey across North America, ultimately arriving in Tennessee. They also bear a fleeting trace of the Southern Gothic tradition. Kha turns these images into a new form that is both abject self-figuration and wryly grim commentary on America’s too-often-simplified views of complex racial realities.
Tommy Kha (born in Memphis, 1988) received his MFA in photography from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. He is a 2021 Foam Talent, finalist for the 2021–22 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship and Hyères 2019 Photography Grand Prix, recipient of a 2019 Creative Review Photography Annual and 2016 En Foco Photography Fellowship, and a former artist-in-residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York; Light Work, Syracuse, New York; the Camera Club of New York; and most recently, the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Brooklyn. Kha was named one of forty-seven artists in the inaugural Silver List in 2021. His work has been published in Foam, Creative Review, Dazed, Interview, McSweeney’s, Hyperallergic, Modern Painters, Slate, the Huffington Post, BUTT Magazine, BuzzFeed News, and Miranda July’s We Think Alone, and on the cover of Vice Magazine’s 2017 Photo Issue. He has collaborated with the Billboard Creative in Los Angeles, and exhibited in numerous group exhibitions including at Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, New York; Yongkang Lu Art, Shanghai; and Hyères Festival, France. His first solo show was at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon; it was followed by a solo exhibition at Baxter St at Camera Club of New York in 2019, where Kha was a 2018 workspace resident. He appeared in Laurie Simmons’s 2018 narrative feature My Art. Kha currently teaches photography at the New School, New York. He lives and works between New York City and Memphis.