James Richmond Barthé, "Feral Benga"
Feral Benga, sculpted by James Richmond Barthé from 1935-1936, perfectly encompasses the coordinated forces of primitivism - made fashionable by European modernism - and the origins of a gay vernacular drenched in references to classical antiquity. These forces coalesced during the Harlem Renaissance when wealthy white gay men from Greenwich Village "discovered" the sexual tourism possible in the relatively less policed uptown neighborhood. Barthé clearly understood how these influences were merging. On one hand, he chose the famous Senegalese singer who performed throughout the cabaret scene in Paris as his subject, weapon in hand. Therefore, the sculpture materializes the colonial fantasy held by the West of the African savage, completely in touch with a carnal sexuality and to the earth (and therefore, a solution to the repressed Victorian society modernists hoped to break through). On the other, the focus on a sculptured male form, stretched in a pose that accentuates his musculature, allows the viewer to take pleasure in tracking every curve of Benga's physique. While these references are rather clear, the question of authorial vision - was Barthé pointing fun at the obviously problematic gaze of the white gay man looking on and desiring a colonial subject? Or was he playing into that desire for marketability - is much more complicated. Historicizing and unpacking the queerness of the Harlem Renaissance and placing the literary movement within the larger modernist movement that also saw the *visual* art world as a site of primitivism is very important for 1) understanding the movement better and 2) placing blackness and queerness as identities that fit together long before the contemporary moment and Stonewall.
I'm so sorry I couldn't find a small enough image!
"Feral Benga" by James Richmond Barthé, cast in bronze, 1935-1936.
#queerart #queerarthistory #richmondbarthé#feralbenga #queerharlemrenaissance#harlemrennaissance
Robert Blanchon, "Untitled (sympathy card)"
While the tales of survivors are essential for the maintenance and first-hand remembrance of the AIDS epidemic, the tragic understanding that death was a ubiquitous presence in the 1980s and 1990s amongst queer people is similarly vital to accurately portraying and teaching a queer artistic and social history. The entirety of the "AIDS at Home" exhibition @museumofcityny (which is on view through October 22!) poignantly captures the overwhelming sense of loss that was surely felt in the late 20th century, but has, perhaps, been mostly forgotten or hasn't been inherited by a younger generation of queer people for whom the fear of death and disease from sex is largely assuaged by medical advancement. Straying away from the usual cast of art world characters associated with the epidemic, artists who passionately reveled in their existence and a sense of the future by protesting and fighting for treatment so publicly, this show feels relatively intimate. Stepping away from polemics, "AIDS at Home" zooms in on the interpersonal, focusing on last wishes, affected families, and the weight of expected death. This photograph, a conceptual piece made by Robert Blanchon in 1994, of course speaks to these tragic features of the epidemic. The card reads, "The family of ________ acknowledges with grateful appreciation your kind expression of sympathy". While this message undeniably evokes a family mourning the recent loss of a child, the blank space reveals much more, in my mind, than simply a discreet instance of death. The blank space also brings to mind the way the world was encouraged to alienate victims out of a call for personal safety, removing their humanity along the way. Lastly, not giving a name can also act as a universalizing gesture, an homage to the paranoia around AIDS and the element of chance involved in actually getting it - the whole world, not just gay people, became implicated in the epidemic either through castigation or contraction, dread or death, bereavement or becoming a bystander. •
"Untitled (sympathy card)," Robert Blanchon, photograph, 1994.
#robertblanchon #sympathycard #aidsathome#queerart #queerarthistory
Gustave Caillebotte, "Les raboteurs de parque (The Floor Scrapers)"
Most famous for his depiction of a rainy day in Paris, one that shows off the effects of the urban planner and architect Georges-Eugène Haussmann's reconstruction of the city's arcades and buildings, painter Gustave Caillebotte was also one of the few French Impressionists who scholars believe was gay. Certainly in this painting, "Les raboteurs de parque" ("The Floor Scrapers"), he seems to acknowledge his same-sex desire and give credence to this contemporary suspicion. In a sharply illusionistic perspective, Caillebotte depicts the menial labor of scraping away old flooring in an airy, bourgeois Parisian home. The streaks of distressed floor lead our eye quickly to the background, but not before we caress and take in the curves of the men working away. These men, although ostensibly there to show an example of modern labor, are also carefully rendered as to accentuate their musculature, shining with sweat. This, in addition to the clear allusion to a "feminized" sexual position, allow the modern art historian to question the sexuality, or at least homoerotic tendencies of the artist who provides no such explicit confession in his personal biography. Another code lies in the hinted exchange between the two men on the right side of the canvas. For one, their mirrored body position, both hunched over, both with their heads turned towards one another, serves as a rather classic symbol of gay eroticism since on the surface the defining feature of sex between two men or two women is the notion of cloned forms copulating. Thinking more literally, however, the clear communication between two sweaty, shirtless men allows the viewer to imagine, or fantasize, the sorts of flirtation and loaded glances exchanged between gay men in a strictly heteronormative world. •
"Les raboteurs de parque" ("The Floor Scrapers"), Gustave Caillebotte, oil on canvas, 1875.
#gustavecaillebotte #thefloorscrapers#lesraboteursdeparquet #queerart #queerarthistory
George Platt Lynes, "Jimmie Daniels, Singer at Le Ruban Bleu"
As a revitalization and assertion of the huge scope of artistic talent in black America, the Harlem Renaissance has been ingrained into our collective consciousness as a moment of aesthetic revolt and identity formation through the written word. While this all true, what is often forgotten is that the Harlem Renaissance, to quote Henry Louis Gates Jr., "was surely as gay as it was black." Many of the defining writers of the period including Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and most openly Bruce Nugent, were a part of a relatively "out" gay subculture. This community was photographed extensively, but not by its own members. Another gay subculture, this one farther downtown and engrossed in the larger world of white modernism - and consequently steeped in a tradition of primitivism - took it upon themselves to travel uptown and revel in the black nude. Carl Van Vechten, Nikolas Murray, and George Platt Lynes (whose portrait of Jimmie Daniels is shown here) became obsessed with photographing not only the black cultural elite as a means of collecting an ethnographic panorama of black gayness, but also to recreate the Harlem Renaissance after the depression eclipsed its momentum, and finally to make theatrical portraits of nude black men acting out scenes of an imagined and dramatized African past. These portraits are characteristic of modernism's larger incorporation and fetish of African material culture - Picasso and Modigliani's use of African masks come to mind as more famous examples of this ideological precipitate. In context with these photographers, however, who were all gay themselves, the combination of sexual energy placed upon the body of black men who are dressed up as "African" is particularly troubling. They perpetuated and chose to concretize the stereotypes of the hyper sexual black man, and in doing so, serve as a foundation of problematic white gayness which persists today. •
"Jimmie Daniels, Singer at Le Ruban Bleu," George Platt Lynes, gelatin silver print, 1933.
#georgeplattlynes #jimmiedaniels #queerart#queerarthistory #queerphotography
Florine Stettheimer, "Spring Sale at Bendel's"
Looking at Florine Stettheimer's painting is like propelling yourself 90 years back in time to a party you are definitely not cool enough to attend. The multitude of figures sequestered into what can only be imagined as circles of the most intense gossip, the baroque decoration that adorns the impossibly high ceilings and dreamlike interiors, and of course, the kaleidoscopic chromatic arrangement have become staples of a career defined in part by its pioneering position in the camp aesthetic. These elements and more that allow her painting to fit into a logic of camp that aligns itself at the nexus of irony, humor, frivolity, and consequently, a amateurish auteurism is complicated, however, because of Stettheimer's obvious virtuoso as a painter. Expertly and elegantly defined figures occupy a space that successfully translates as flat and present despite its airiness. Indeed, because of both the gay coding of the content and the painterly skill, Stettheimer is perhaps *the* most important, or at least innovative, painter that worked with queer subject matter in pre-war America, and one of the only who was straight. For gay artists this judgement holds true. These artists, mostly men, fell in love with the glamour of the parties she depicted but also the intentional androgyny of the figures, who actualize a feminine masculinity in corporeal form otherwise invisible but entirely desirable. All of this, in addition to the frenzied action of the painting, which queers a normative visual narrative of line leading the eye to the subject, forces the viewer to participate and take pleasure in Stettheimer's queer, blissful, imaginative scenes of high society. Take a trip to the Jewish Museum in NYC for their current exhibition of her work! •
"Spring Sale at Bendel's," Florine Stettheimer, oil on canvas, 1921.
#florinestettheimer #queerart #queerarthistory#springsaleatbendels #jewishmuseum
Jasper Johns, "Flag"
Before every modern art museum in the country shares this painting on their social media apparati and embarrass themselves, let's remember that "Flag" by Jasper Johns is gay gay gay gay GAY! Johns's career has been memorialized by his destruction of symbolic meaning. Through repetition, through iconization, through obstruction, Johns tackles linguistic and numerical codes, and national monument, in order to reorient our relationship to epistemes that govern our life and world. In "Flag," Johns does anything but produce a jingoistic stamp of approval for the USA, but rather calls into question its grandiose ego, giving it a mantel for democratic questioning, not praise. During the mid 1950s when this painting was made, America was in the thick of McCarthyism's paranoid hold over the nation's (and individuals') psyches. While communists have been historicized as the target of McCarthyism's reign of terror, gay men were in fact persecuted, fired, and black listed at the highest rate of anyone in the country. It is this "Lavender Scare" that Johns is associating with the symbol of America. He uses the connection between word and image, between sign and referent, to subvert the original connection between flag and pride because, as a gay man, Johns viewed the flag and understood himself disconnected from its warm rays of community. There are also formal considerations to be made about the way the encaustic painting technique leaves the surface inconsistently developed, mirroring the artist's decaying relationship with the state and his lover Robert Rauschenberg. However, it is his blunt presentation of institutionalized homophobia -beautifully coded within the linguistic and visual mechanisms of nationalism - that is so inspiring about this work. Happy 4th! •
"Flag," Jasper Johns, encaustic paint, 1955.
#jasperjohns #flag #queerart #queerarthistory#rauschenberg
MoMA PS1 Archives
Amazing find @momaps1 today! At their display of institutional archives, "A Bit of Matter," I stumbled upon these three documents that constitute David Wojnarowicz's application to the museum's studio program, which provided up and coming artists from NYC and all over the world an opportunity to collaborate and create in a space of their own. On the right we see a recommendation letter from PeterHujar, a photographer and centerpiece of the 1980s art scene in NYC (also gay). On the left we see Wojnarowicz's application written with his original manuscript. Apart from allowing academics a better understanding of the artistic motivations for Wojnarowicz and proof of his friendship with important figures like Hujar, seeing these archives also allow a contemporary audience to reanimate Wojnarowicz's lost voice, one which was so incisive, so roaring with passion, and so vitally important during the AIDS epidemic. These documents - along with the rest of show - are well worth a trip out to their Queens location! •
#davidwojnarowicz #peterhujar #momaps1#abitofmatter #queerarthistory #queerart#queerarchives
Wolfgang Tillmans, "Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast I"
During his stint at Manifesta 10 in 2014, held in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wolfgang Tillmans created this spectacular critique of the invasive and abusive censorship delivered by the country's government. Resembling a giant television screen when seen in situ - go check it out on the top floor of @themuseumofmodernart ! - this recognizable frame allows us to identify what rests inside: static. Static is a common sign of the loss of a transmission signal, and while that can be because of a wide variety of causes, censorship by the powers that be was a particularly frequent progenitor of this image in homes across Russia in 2014. At that time, according to the wall text @themuseumofmodernart , "the Russian government was carrying out military interventions in Eastern Ukraine, annexing Crimea, enacting anti-gay legislation, and restricting the dissemination of images of protests against the state." Therefore, the static is not only a reminder of big brother, but also the particular crimes being committed against so many, including queer people. Tillmans, a gay artist, makes a very bold statement here by calling out the Russian government on their home soil in a medium and style that is just subtle enough, and sneakily cohesive within a history of painterly abstraction, to avoid immediate retribution or detection.
To follow up this work, Tillmans set out to photograph Russia's underground queer community after Manifesta 10. The link to photographs, and an article by @i_d can be seen here: https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/wolfgang-tillmans-profiles-russias-queer-community. •
"Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast I," Wolfgang Tillmans, inkjet print mounted on Dibond, 2014.
Lucas Michael, "Redress"
Loved reading this article written by Zachary Small from @artsy ! It discusses the current show @leslielohmanmuseum. "FOUND," curated by Avram Finklestein, seeks to upend the ways queerness has been relegated to male desire and the male body, and investigate artists who are operating in queerness's philosophical intricacies. This is especially important for L-L, a museum that has forged much of its queer collection through a focus on the ways gay men have situated their art practice on the phallus and bodily desire. One work in particular, "Redress," shown here, stood out as particularly interesting both in its theoretical approach to queerness and it's repositioning within a curated exhibition. Designed by Lucas Michael (@luquense), the door originally stood just next to a gallery door of identical proportion. On one hand, queerness can be seen here as an alternative path, entryway, and vision of the world. Entering Michael's vision of difference necessarily calls forth questions of sexual identity and hegemony, of normal and not, and establishes forcibly imaginary worlds of existence and fantasy. Queer sexuality is made more obvious, however, through the red neon color. Explained by Small, "what appears to be a simple geometry—a glowing, red minimalism—performs a subtle double duty, alluding to gay nightclubs, cruising grounds, and other places where desire is enacted." Even more exciting is the door's original placement adjacent to an art institution. Whether it was intentional or happenstance, Michael also situated his queer portal as outside of and in competition with the art market, reminding us that queerness has always had to be a silent, distant relative to the heteronormative art family of museums and galleries. It's so nice to see museums that are already devoted to queer art being self-reflective about the ways that they can force themselves to work in a different, highly intellectual curatorial style that has been relegated to the world of formalist art history, as well as include feminism and anti-racism as coherent themes within queer art (seen more in the rest of the show). •
"Redress," Lucas Michael, neon light, 2015.
Marsden Hartley, "Eight Bells Folly: Memorial to Hart Crane"
Although they shared a relatively contentious relationship, Marsden Hartley and Hart Crane were both gay artists - Crane, of course, a poet - living in New York City in the interwar period. After Crane committed suicide, their companionship was memorialized in Hartley's "Eight Bells Folly: Memorial to Hart Crane," shown here. Embedded within the painting are several allusions both to Crane's oeuvre and the history of American literature in general. The ship points to Hart's actual suicide, as he jumped off a ship called the Eight Bells as he returned from Mexico. The two semi-arch shapes above the ship point to Crane's seminal long poem, "The Bridge." Even the crumpled ship's right-most sail resembles a callalily, which appeared as a motif in Crane's work again and again. The "8"s have been theorized by scholar David Ward as a poetic representation of the two artists' similarities. Despite the personality differences between the two (while Hartley was famously disciplined and clean cut, Crane was a bit of a miscreant) the number's composition of two identical circles reflects the artists' core commonality: queerness and artistry in the face of oppression. Understanding this barrage of symbolism as a pantheon of references to a fellow gay man, as friend not lover, the painting becomes a beautiful reflection of the subaltern community that sprung out of mutual fear of hiding sexual orientation, lovers, and lives altogether.
I have not seen The Met Brueur's recent show, "Marsden Hartley's Maine," but if anyone has please let me know if his queerness is an appropriately large part of the conversation! I sort of doubt it, but I'm willing and happy to be surprised! •
"Eight Bells Folly: Memorial to Hart Crane," Marsden Hartley, oil on canvas, 1933.
#marsdenhartley #eightbellsfolly#memorialtohartcrane #queerart #queerarthistory#marsdenhartleysmaine
Zanele Muholi, "Lesedi Modise, Mafikeng, North West"
Working as a photographer in South Africa, Zanele Muholi acts as a first responder to the problem of lesbian erasure in her home country. Even after Apartheid ended in 1991, factions of the black community continued to be (and still are) institutionally oppressed, lesbian women chief among them. In one of her series - "Faces & Phases" - Muholi responds to the conceptual and physical removal of lesbianism from South African consciousness, subverting classical modes of portraiture in the process. Her work's goal moves beyond representation, however. Because of the truly dire state of lesbian women in South Africa, Muholi describes her role in documenting these women as "visual activism": "Today, lesbians in South Africa are brutally murdered. “Curative rape” is used on us. That forces me to redefine what visual activism is. If I were to reduce myself to the label “visual artist,” it would mean that what I’m doing is just for play, that our identities, as black female beings who are queer or are lesbian, is just art. Art needs to be political—or let me say that my art is political. It’s not for show. It’s not for play." This larger, politically incisive, aspect to her work is echoed in her compositions. For instance, here in her portrait of Lesedi Modise, the classical feminine body profile (which forced women to be viewed as objects without obstruction to the male gaze) is complicated by her direct, unapologetic confrontation with us as viewers. There is a tension between tradition and revolution, between the use of the lesbian body as object and the artist's liberating mission of giving these women agency and visibility. Muholi, most essentially, brings to mind both history and world building in stunning black and white portraits of a devastated community. •
"Lesedi Modise, Mafikeng, North West," from the series "Faces & Phases," Zanele Muholi, 2012.
#zanelemuholi #facesandphases #queerart#queerarthistory #queerphotography
Shikeith Cathey, "Germinate"
I am sick and lying in bed but blessed be to @gasira.t who told me to check out the brilliant work coming from the current MFA thesis candidates at Yale! I was particularly struck by Shikeith Cathey, a photographer working out of Philadelphia (@shikeith). His work interrogates the strictures placed upon black men, namely the way emotional vulnerability and gender fluidity are not coded into the ways they are expected to comport themselves. "Germinate," shown here, presents the nude black male body with a bouquet of flowers, a clear homage to a female sensibility and iconography. The photograph does not, however, place the body and the flowers as foils to one another. Instead, the flowers become a part of the bodily representation and, consequently, Shikeith demonstrates that delicacy, tenderness, and femininity more generally are not only applicable to men in the context of whiteness. He reminds us that black men are externally denied the opportunity to be themselves, and allows them to "snatch back their narrative and write from their own individual perspectives." •
"Germinate," Shikeith Cathey, photograph, 2014.
#shikeith #shikeithcathey #yalemfa #queerart#queerarthistory #queerphotography
Il Sodoma, "Saint Sebastian"
Saint Sebastian has long been heralded as the first gay icon, reflecting the larger configuration of martyrdom as feminine but specifically pointing to gayness through his particular iconography. For one, Sebastian was an unmarried, young, beautiful man whose physicality was unflinchingly shown throughout the history of art. More acutely, however, he is shown being martyred by arrows (even thoughhe survives the initial onslaught and is eventually clubbed to death). By being shown in a position of vulnerability, one defined through the penetration of arrows through his skin, Sebastian has become adopted by the queer community has the prototypical twink, taking on the passive sexual position. Therefore, we see how Saint Sebastian stands as one of the most salient figures of how the queer community - consciously or not - has utilized camp to appropriate religion (and specifically Catholicism) as an artistic strategy. Susan Sontag identifies artifice as a central aspect of the camp aesthetic and by doing so illuminates the way that seeing the world in terms of camp allows the gay viewer to critically analyze the way things are sold, postured, and packaged as a way to obscure said artifice. By understanding the lives of the saints as precipitates of a larger ideological mission to engender a spirit of Christianity, the camp gaze can separate that message from the form it lives in, appreciating the latter (i.e. Saint Sebastian's body) with an authority all their own and up to their own making. Therefore, the question of whether Sebastian was gay is irrelevant, instead, he is crucial as an example of the way that queer people have invented worlds of their own, using camp as an operative agent in that process. This world making does not only involve producing new structures and freedoms, however, it also forces us to generate an ancestry, whose importance lies in their construction of the contemporary community posthumously that queer people carry out as a means of self-assertion into histories that they are actively erased from.•
Mark Bradford, "Finding Barry"
The Hammer Museum has historically commissioned artists to create mural projects or other cite specific interventions that decorate the lobby wall. So, for Mark Bradford's retrospective at the museum in 2015, he was tasked with designing the wall, the first piece seen in his groundbreaking exhibition - "Scorched Earth." For his project, Bradford produced a map of the United States, however, within the borders of each, he includes the number (per 100,000 people) of HIV infections corresponding to that state in 2009. By doing so, he doesn't only create the mural as a reminder that HIV has persisted since its notorious explosion in the 1980s, but also leaves room for the imagination to project how HIV and AIDS has continued to affected the nation and its audience into 2015 (and looking at it now, the contemporary moment more generally). This mural is called "Finding Barry," which is a pun aimed at the artistic strategy of the work, in which Bradford had to break through over 100 layers of paint to find a mural done by a lobby project by Barry McGee. Therefore, we see how Bradford was both metaphorically and literally digging into our stored and hidden history to exhume the trauma of the AIDS epidemic to tell the public to remain vigilant about the diseases moving forward. •
"Finding Barry," Mark Bradford, excavated wall painting, 2015.
#markbradford #scorchedearth #hammermuseum#barrymcgee #findingbarry #queerart#queerarthistory
Rosie Hastings & Hannah Quinlan, ""D.I.N.K. #2 (Dual Income No Kids)"
Fire Island, outside of New York City has long held a special place in the gay imaginary as a capital city for gay America. However, even though it's celebrity has remained in tact, the specifics of its resonance have changed drastically. Before Stonewall was manufactured as the spark that lit up the gay revolution, Fire Island was a refuge, a place where gay men and women would spend their summers having sex, partying all day and night, all while feeling safe and connected to a community. As gayness has become a corporate target, and the myth of our "liberation" has resulted in the ridiculous notion that we can think of ourselves as living beyond the oppression and seclusion of a gay "past," Fire Island has become a vessel for monetizing what gay culture will look like in the "post-Stonewall" frontier. And how do you make anything marketable in the United States? Tie back to the constructed identity of the state: make it white, make it male, make it wealthy, make it "respectable." In "D.I.N.K. #2 (Dual Income No Kids)" Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan remind of us this phenomenon, making CGI landscapes that use Fire Island as a background for the corporate infestation of gay life. Laying on the beach is a newspaper sprawled open to a Tiffany's advertisement, the first to show a proposal between people of the same sex. Two classically masculine, white men are sprawled across the page, within the context of marriage, an institution fundamentally linked to the trappings of state control. The scene here exists after a storm of some sort, the objects are the debris left over. So, in a metaphorical sense, Hastings and Quinlan are showing the trash of white supremacy and cispatriarchy that we as a gay community are served after the revolutionary storm of Stonewall, which was falsely promised as a liberation for all intersections of the men and women who once traversed these beaches. •
"D.I.N.K. #2 (Dual Income No Kids)," Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan, CGI, 2016.
#rosiehastings #hannahquinlan #dink2 #queerart#queerarthistory
Hal Fischer, "Handkerchiefs"
Emerging in the 1970s was a budding fascination in the specifics of gay life and culture. Consequently, efforts were made to illuminate the subtle codes and symbols that dictated social and sexual relations, specifically between gay men. Hal Fischer became a part of this social campaign in his documentation of the gay "types," color coded handkerchiefs, and other material signaling mechanisms that defined gay culture in San Francisco. Gay "types" existed within a taxonomy that were most essentially aimed at allowing people to find highly specific communities (often focused at bars catering to one type in particular) or compatible sexual partners. The colored handkerchiefs would get even more specific, publicly proclaiming the sex acts they were looking to provide and or receive. For instance, we learn here in "Handkerchiefs" that a blue handkerchief placed in the right hip pocket communicates a desire to bottom, whereas the same handkerchief placed in the left hip pocket designates a preference for being a top in anal intercourse. Change the color and an entirely different set of possibilities and desires is communicated. Through Fischer's practice, the artist most immediately appears as an ethnographer, illuminating the undergirding semiotic elements of gay life as a means of demystifying and de-abstracting these men, placing them within a system of concrete social relations. In a more academic sense, however, Fischer's practice is a quintessentially structuralist project. By understanding gay life as being dependent on overarching structures of subaltern identity formation and interpersonal sexual codes, he understands gay people as fundamentally tied to a social system. •
"Handkerchiefs," Hal Fischer, photograph with overlaid text, 1977.
#halfischer #gaysemiotics #handkerchiefs#gayhandkerchiefs #gaysanfrancisco #queerart#queerarthistory #queerphotography
Ad Minoliti, "QDECO1"
The home and nature have historically been associated with femininity. In art, female presence in these spaces has been articulated by the male hand and vision, sacrificing the autonomy of women to make these spaces their own. For instance, the impressionists (especially the ultimate pig Renoir) chose to render women nude in nature in a way that proclaims it as their organic state: vulnerable andreposed for male consumption. Similarly, the home has acted as an vessel for men to control the movement and finances of their wives. In Ad Minoliti's work, the articles queers the female domestic space through an infusion of digitally created forms. Often placed on chairs in mid century modern living rooms, these abstract forms look vaguely human, giving the space a sense of corporeal occupation, but not by the usual housewife. To quote Minoliti, "the whole point was unleashing geometry in a domestic setting, and seeing how these geometrical creatures worked to reconfigure that space - one usually regarded through heteronormativity as feminine." Therefore, by fundamentally altering, even rendering fantastical, the domestic sphere, Minoliti parallels the way queerness has also reinvented our understanding of private life. In her work, Minoliti shifts the home from a decidedly feminine zone of inhabitance to a region of ambiguity, liminality and confusion. Our inherited assumptions about the home are broken: these rooms are not feminine nor masculine, neither fully from the 50s nor the 21st century. This leads us to a central logic to queerness, and to Minoliti's work: "Infinite possibilities." •
"QDECO1," Ad Minoliti, digital collage, 2011.
#adminoliti #qdeco #digitalcollage #queerart#queerarthistory
Linn Underhill, "Baseball Mitt"
If you are queer, when did you know and what was that knowledge connected to? Was it mapped onto sexuality or onto a more abstract sense of otherness? These questions are directly linked to queer youth and the experience of being a young person whose queerness may only be understood through a rejection of gender normative activities or acceptance of those that are viewed as gender deviant (because of course heterosexuality is inextricable from the normative formulation of gender). In Linn Underhill's series "The Tomboy Suite," she documents the mementos that are remembered as material crystallizations of a sense of feeling othered as a masculine girl. Among the included objects is a toy train, this baseball glove, action figures, and a cap pistol. The collection even expands past these portraits of inanimate objects to include archival photographs of "tomboys" from time past. While these latter historic photographs are crucial as a way of placing female gender deviance in a validating lineage, I am more interested in the effort to distill the experience of feeling like an outsider into objects. These photographs strip away all context from the objects (outside of the evocative title), exalting their importance in a common portrait motif, and consequently they poignantly communicate the stress, jubilation, and confusion that come with wanting to play baseball, or shoot a gun, or do anything that transgresses our rigid barriers of femininity and masculinity. •
"Baseball Mitt," from the series "The Tomboy Suite," Linn Underhill, color coupler prints, 1996.
#linnunderhill #baseballmitt #queerart#queerarthistory #queerphotography
L.J. Roberts, "The Queer Houses of Brooklyn..."
As a means of paying homage to past queer liberation efforts in New York City, while simultaneously illuminating the contemporary privileges that are born from those movements, artist L.J. Roberts (@eljayroberts) uses the naturally queered methodology of craft and the queered materiality of yarn to literally tie together our collective history with 21st century struggle. In "The Queer Houses of Brooklyn In The Three Towns of Breukelen, Boswyck, and Midwout During the 41st Year of the Stonewall Era," shown here, Roberts truly synthesizes this artistic strategy into a gloriously colored, historically engaged quilt. Apart from the nominal reference to Stonewall, memorialized as the origin of gay liberation, Roberts tracks the iconography of the subsequent movement, stitching a number of the ACT UP pink triangles into the composition. "Arriving" in the 21st century, Roberts includes the names of several queer collectives in Brooklyn. These three references are shoved together as a reminder that whatever progress queer communities as achieved is not random but was enacted by a prior generation. Apart from this engagement with history, Roberts also allows the contemporary actors of queer support - these queer houses - to form their own process of iconization. Each houses is named and placed alongside a characteristic symbol. According to the artists' website, this gesture "references and subverts the iconography of coats-of-arms and heraldic devices usually associated with royalty." Thus, even as the modern gay politic is humbled by the efforts of the preceding generation, Roberts allows us to begin thinking of our own legacy and place in queer history. Lastly, Roberts transforms the quilt beyond a passive art object by placing push pins with the name of each queer house in front of the quilt, thereby becoming an active agent in the formation of future queer collectives. •
"The Queer Houses of Brooklyn In The Three Towns of Breukelen, Boswyck, and Midwout During the 41st Year of the Stonewall Era," L.J. Roberts, 2011.
#ljroberts #thequeerhousesofbrooklyn #queerart#queerarthistory #queercraft
Cassils, "Becoming an Image"
The trans body has become a fascination for the general population, serving as the primary source of interest for media outlets and cis populations to discuss and try to rationalize trans identity. The subtext to this logic is a strict adherence to and romanticization of the idea that trans people are "born in the wrong body" and can only realize happiness through drastic and expensive surgical reconstructions. Of course, transness extends far beyond the physical body, and it is in that more holistic, less biologically determined, expansive space of transness that artist Cassils (@cassilsartist) operates. As noted on Cassils's website, "Bashing through gendered binaries, Cassils performs transgender not as a crossing from one sex to another but rather as a continual process of becoming, a form of embodiment that works in a space of indeterminacy, spasm and slipperiness." This productive strategy is beautifully exemplified in Cassils's performance "Becoming an Image." Placed in a pitch black room, Cassils attacks a 2000 lb. clay block, the action only captured through flash photography. Through this methodology, we as an audience only see the intense physicality of Cassils's movement and the indentations of the kicks and punches delivered to the clay. Cassils illustrates the self-deterministic image of the trans body, one that is delivered physical trauma, but should remain liberated only by the person themselves, not mediated or prescribed by anyone else. Additionally, as a body builder and personal trainer, Cassils performance also presents an astonishingly fit body, reorienting our understanding of physical health from cis people, forcing cis audiences to recognize that the trans body is not a vessel waiting to change or inherently weak, but can also exist as powerful, heroic, and intimidating. •
"Becoming an Image," Cassils, photographs of the performance, 2012-current.
#cassils #becominganimage #queerart #transart#queerarthistory #queerperformanceart
"Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes," published by ARTnews
Just ran across this graph in an @artnewsmag article from two years ago: "Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes"
Yes, queer representation in museums is my focus but we cannot forget that despite making up half of the world's population, women (queer and straight, cis and trans) are fundamentally, systematically, and fervently pushed to the margins of the art world as curators, museum directors, and exhibited artists.
Perhaps the most troubling quote was a statistic that was as offered as evidence of progress: "Of all the solo exhibitions since 2007 at the Whitney Museum, 29 percent went to women artists. Some statistics have improved. In the year 2000, the Guggenheim in New York had zero solo shows by women. In 2014, 14 percent of the solo exhibitions were by women." Queer themes and representation must coincide with the incorporation and exaltation of women and people of color as creators, administrators, curators, and artistic contributors more broadly. Intersectionality is the ONLY answer.
Full article here: http://www.artnews.com/2015/05/26/taking-the-measure-of-sexism-facts-figures-and-fixes/
Showing "progress" in 2016: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/arts/design/the-resurgence-of-women-only-art-shows.html
Libby Black, "Lesbian Gym"
There have been many efforts to parcel together queer archives across the country, collecting letters, activist literature and photography to materialize a history that has been and continues to be pushed to the margins to make room for "serious" history. Part of artist Libby Black's practice, is, in a similar vein, recreating faux versions of a specific aspect of the queer archive: pornography. In paintings like "Lesbian Gym," Black delivers us eroticized imagery and a camp title that bespeak porn mags of the early to mid 20th centuries. While perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when the archive is the topic of conversation, porn has always been a constitutive part of life in the closet, and therefore, the queer experience. In part this is because seeing other queer people in the context of an affirming space of desire is crucial to understanding oneself within a broader community of queer people. Additionally though, these magazines were owned, used, and hidden by queer subjects so we must also cherish them also as relics of our communal yesteryear, fossils of an epoch of harsher oppression. Additionally, Black exclusively paints lesbian magazine covers, which directly counters the patriarchal narrative of gay history and sexual liberation. Black provides queer women in the 21st century with validation of their identity by situating it within an historical framework that is, while deeply meaningful, also delightfully humorous and dramatic. •
"Lesbian Gym," Libby Black, gouache on paper, 2016.
#libbyblack #lesbiangym #queerart #queerarthistory#lesbianart #queerarchive
Anthony Goicolea, "Whet"
The spectacle of teenage sexuality has been almost exclusively relegated to the female body, exploited and fetishized by male artists throughout the art historical canon. Anthony Goicolea, however, maps the awakening, awkward, and uncomfortable sexuality of adolescence onto himself. And, as a gay man, this gesture serves as self-investigation into maturation and the construction of queer subjecthood. In "Whet," shown here, we are presented with three "Goicoleas", two French kissing in the pool while the third sits on the periphery, looking back at us. In one sense, we are presented with the mythologized "first contact" of queer youth, a resolution and realization of the queer desire that has festered in the boys' minds for years. Simultaneously, however, we also witness the intense isolation that comes with queerness both from normative boyhood but also from our gay peers' own experimentation and struggle. This dichotomy serves to explore the way queerness is mapped onto the individual, both as an intensely powerful source of desire but also as a means of rejection. By placing his own face on each of the boys, Goicolea tells this story through a decidedly personal, potentially even biographical, but entirely brilliant framework. •
"Whet," Anthony Goicolea, manipulated photograph, 1999.
#anthonygoicolea #whet #queerart #queerarthistory#queerphotography
The NFL - Really?
Who is moving in? Ah yes, it's the NFL, and with it comes droves of phallocentric masculinity, aggression, concussed idiocy, and white people narrating the 21st century minstrel show. And, even more troubling to anyone who loves art museums, this serves as a mark of the devastation of the arts in Trump's America. The publicity that comes with the PMA being the backdrop for the televised NFL draft, in my mind, looks like a desperate plea for publicity and, consequently, funds to make up for the NEA and NEH's destruction. Art institutions, especially large museums like the PMA, need a lot of money to operate. So while there is absolutely a critique to make of the PMA and what normative prescriptions come with pleading with capitalism (i.e. was an American Watercolor show really the most intellectually driven exhibition?), this literal roadblock that is currently obscuring the beautiful PMA façade seems more like a reaction to the grip of American fascism we are struggling under. Sending love to any PMA staff and visitors having to trudge through the side entrance and make room for the #jock #parade and @ football fans I'm sorry but your little show is really ruining my day. •
#fucktrump #savethearts #nea #neh#philadelphiamuseumofart
Carlos Motta, "Petite Mort: Recollections of a Queer Public"
"Petite Mort: Recollection of a Queer Public" collects drawings and written explanations from over 60 gay male artists that describe and visualize where and when they have had public sexual encounters, specifically in New York City. Artist Carlos Motta (@carlosalejandromotta), in assembling the project, asks large questions about the nature of queer intimacy and affection: "What if our politics were rebuilt around a broader notion of intimacy rather than individuality? Can we foster, rather than police, the trust and affection inherent to desire and pleasure? Should equality be about difference, rather than assimilation?" In other words, Motta recreates a plethora of stories where the taboo of public sex exists alongside and is defined by queerness - it's own taboo altogether - to force the 21st century viewer, who is currently enveloped in a milieu obsessed with the politics of queer assimilation (i.e. Gay marriage being the à la mode queer liberation movement) to reorient their perspective towards a "queered" queerness, one that is more radical, subaltern, and non-normative. Additionally though, the project taken altogether tracks the city of New York and its evolving culture of queerness because the 60 artists are intergenerational. For instance, the entry highlighting The Rambles in Central Park reminds us of a less normative yesteryear, where queer men met and have sex in public places, both as a means of getting off but also to form community and simply meet each other. This sense of desperation contrasts sharply with the grindr defined 21st century meet-up, where convenience is king. Motta'a piece tracks queer male existence and geographies from the periphery to the institution, from rejection to tolerance to capitalist envelopment, from hated to fetishized by showing and describing where and how we have found each other. •
"Petite Mort: Recollections of a Queer Public," Carlos Motta, materials vary but mostly consist of text and drawings, 2011.
#carlosmotta #queerpublic #petitemort #queerart#queerarthistory #queerhistory
Sadie Lee, "Raging Bull"
It goes without saying that the destabilization of gender, and the unabashed demarcation of the construction's performativity are inherently queer campaigns. By eschewing the idea that gender has any natural and essential features, we remind ourselves that deviations upon the ways that gender has been binarized necessarily queer one of the central and most totalizing foundations of human sociability while also becoming a motif of the queer community. In "Raging Bull," painter Sadie Lee articulates how masculinity is not predicated on a phallus, but can also be performed by a woman, or anyone else. By doing this, Lee communicates that the characterizations of this figure - power, strength, seriousness - when mapped onto a body with breasts are not constitutive of some bastardized masculinity, but instead a simple exposition of the fragility of gendered expression in the first place. Placed in conversation with the large number of gender bending paintings done by Lee, Jack Halberstam has laid the groundwork for considering her work as visualizing a queer politic, a group that complicates the heteronormativity that defines popular culture and the state, positioning the queered image of gender (whether that looks like an inversion or complication of masculinity or femininity) as a truly revolutionary concept that stands in direct opposition to the advertised image of a Western civilization, one predicated on men being men and women being women. •
"Raging Bull," Sadie Lee, oil on canvas, 1994.
#sadielee #ragingbull #judithhalberstam #queerart#queerarthistory #queerpainting
Co-founded by couple Sean and Terry Torrington, SlayTv (@slaytv) is the first international television network that exists for and represents the black queer community. The network currently features three series. "No Shade," the original SlayTv production, follows the life a queer black artist, and was the catalyst of the entire network back in 2013. The success of "No Shade" led to the creation of "Love At First Sight," which tells the story of a black gay couple living in New York City. Through the documentation of black emotional intimacy, Terry and Sean reorient and expand the manner with which black men are shown in the private sphere: "I feel like we are only looked at as sex objects ... There are no real representations in the media when it comes to black queer love and that's really important to me." Terry and Sean also feature a documentary series "Other Boys" - produced by Abdool Corlette - which narrates the socioeconomic, personal, and professional existence of queer and trans black men, an exploration that has been left out of the overarching, whitewashed gay liberation and visibility movement. In addition to finally telling the stories of queer black people, which Terry and Sean say is the essential goal of the project, "normaliz[ing] black queer and trans people of color in media," the project also reclaims specific aspects of these communities' erasure. For example, the very title of the network reminds everyone that the proliferation of words like "slay" and "shade" is a product of appropriation of black vernacular co-opted by the white gay community and pushed through the capitalist machine into the lives of anyone and everyone. These series, and the network in general, are an excellent reminder for me that queer art will not and should not always exist in the confines of the art world, but can often be a more successful project when it exists on accessible platforms like YouTube, go check out SlayTv now! •
SlayTv YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BluntedMuse
David Wojnarowicz, "Untitled (Silence = Death)," film still from "Silence =Death"
If we were to think of the most famous examples of artists added to the queer canon retrospectively, artists who had to be outed, likely our minds jump straight to Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. These men spoke to the violence perpetrated against gay people through a lexicon of metaphor, signage, and baroque iconography. In other words, the queerness of their artistry mimicked their actualqueer identity: it was closeted. Whereas their work is crucial to any consideration of contemporary queer art, the esoteric visual vocabulary they used, and were forced to use, can be quite frustrating because of its circuitousness. In the 1980s, life in the closet became an impossibility with the AIDS epidemic, bringing the community out of the closet and onto the street in a struggle for survival. With this politicized energy came an artistic shift, one that allowed more room for direct, confrontational practice. David Wojnarowicz is perhaps the epitome of this rebellious gay art politic. In photography, text, and other media Wojnarowicz proved himself to be a prolific, widely skilled, and politically incisive creator, making work that eschewed the subtle references of the 1950s for aggressive and blunt depictions of queer oppression. In this image, a still from the movie "Silence = Death," Wojnarowicz makes this ideology clear. Wojanrowicz shows himself muted, but not by society, by himself. The shadow that falls over his neck is of his own hand, the very instrument that covered his mouth with string. Therefore, we are reminded of ACT UP's pleading cry to closeted gay people to come out and join the fight for an AIDS treatment, not just to avoid the death of loved individuals, but the very real possibility of gay people being wiped out altogether. •
"Untitled (Silence = Death)," film still from "Silence =Death," directed by Rosa van Praunheim, David Wojnarowicz, 1990.
#davidwojnarowicz #silenceequalsdeath #aidsart#queerart #queerarthistory #actup
Jon Serl, "Pornography"
From a young age artist Jon Serl was forced to imagine worlds beyond the one we occupy. Raised in a carnival family, the boundless, whimsical realm of the imagination was turned into a commodity and a premium was set on non-normativity. In fact, Serl (before he could even understand himself as a queer person) was dressed up in drag for the sake of performance, bespeaking a childhood that included the possibility of gender deviance, perhaps laying the groundwork for Serl to come to terms with other aspects of his identity, namely sexuality. Insofar as his artistic practice, however, his queerness was always relegated to the landscape of abstraction, of denaturalized figures, of, again - the imagination. "Pornography," shown here, is an example of the way Serl articulated his own fantasy of sexual liberation and openness in the language of anthroaormorphization. On the left we see a potato, on the right, some snake-like pink plant. Given the title, we can understand this scene as erotic, yet between partners that are obviously inanimate in the real world. In this highly poetic gesture, Serl reminds us of how in early to mid 20th century America, queer people were not only made inanimate and silenced, but also brutalized and fetishized to the point of cartoonism and inhumanity. However, in this work, Serl paints a world where that queer minority could still find intimacy. •
"Pornography," Jon Serl, oil on cardboard, undated.
#jonserl #queerart #queerarthistory #queerpainting
Molly Landreth and Amelia Tovey, "Frankie and his Best Boyfriend Trophy, Oakland CA"
Something that is often forgotten when charting queer histories or exhuming queer narratives is that queer people are all around us, generating a queerness all their own all the time. In the contemporary American public, the community umbrella-d underneath "queer" is perhaps most notable for this focus on fluidity, intersectionality, and multiplicity. Indeed, whereas "queer" liberation once meant finding a vaccine for AIDS, with a focus on the lives of white cis men, the contemporary equivalent is more simply (but of course more challenging to the rigid gender and sexual hegemonies) the cultural acceptance of liminality applied to personhood, of individual identity, of SELF-representation. Molly Landreth and Amelia Tovey's project, "Embodiment: A Portrait of Queer Life in America," prioritizes exactly this self-directed portrayal of the vastly diverse queer American community. In portraits like the one shown here of CC Sapp, Landreth and Tovey encourage their model to dress and pose with attributes that bespeak their own conception of their queer identity. The composition of this project becomes an expansive, on-going compendium of what it means to be queer in America. It is apparent that although the project is composed of thousands of individual portraits, however, the real meaning is found in examining each individually and understanding that "queer" as a label is liberating exactly because it is ill-defined, ambiguous, and directly allows for the inflection of the self onto it. Additionally, as a running archive, the project allows for the constant re-examination of queer culture(s), represented through clothing, hair, makeup, etc., and in doing so reminds us that queerness is not only diverse insofar as it spans all races, genders, and socioeconomic privileges, but also that queer individuals communicate or don't communicate that identity in an ever changing, ever expanding manner.•
Photo: "Frankie and his Best Boyfriend Trophy, Oakland CA," from the series "Embodiment: A Portrait of Queer Life in America," Molly Landreth and Amelia Tovey, photograph, 2005.
#mollylandreth #ameliatovey #embodimentproject#queerart #queerarthistory #queerphotography
Sarah Zapata, "If I Could"
Weaving, and craft more generally, has long been relegated to the sphere of female artistry. For instance, every famed medieval tapestry that modern audiences have come to adore were stitched - exclusively - by a group of highly skilled women. Despite its long-standing castigation by the patriarchal contemporary art world, weaving is, according to artist Sarah Zapata (@sylk_z) "having a moment." Zapata is certainly a part of this paradigm shift. The Peruvian-American artist creates yarn environments, patching together different colors and patterns into vast fields from which small sculptures arise like new born plants. These environments are centered on materiality, specifically as a means for the artist to explore her own intersectional identity. For one, Peru has a rich textile history, so Zapata's work allows her to connect with an ancestral practice (her grandfather was a textile salesman in Peru) in a far flung, American context. Perhaps most noticeably, however, is the artist's unflinching mark making: by piecing together disparate colors into discrete sections, Zapata makes her intervention quite plain. In doing so, she draws our attention to the material's feminine history - that she becomes an active part of - but also her lesbian identity through the environment's gregariousness: "It’s like women are everything in my life. As much as I can, I want to showcase that, overly." In her whimsical and investigative solo show "If I Could," currently at the Deli Gallery in NYC, Zapata literally stitches together an exposition of her ethnic lineage, a celebration of female artistic labor, and directs us to her queerness. •
Photograph from "If I Could," Sarah Zapata, yarn, 2017.
#sarahzapata #ificould #deligallery #yarn #weaving#queerart #queerhistory
Image: Out Magazine
Agnes Martin, "Night Sea"
For queer people, the idea of self-repression, of denying oneself sexual freedom, has been criticized and pathologized in addition to the self-actualized, "loud and proud" queer trope. In other words, queer artists like Agnes Martin, whose work we see here, were damned if they did - come out - and damned if they didn't. Whereas this duality of oppression was informed by Western epistemological modalities like Freudian psychoanalysis, Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism were much more liberating for queer artists hiding in the closet. Instead of silence being treated as a sign of emotional and psychological havoc, Zen Buddhism considered silence as healthy, a productive strategy for finding inner peace. As Jonathan Katz points out, under Zen Buddhism, "the self was less in thrall to an illusion of its own monadic autonomy and better able to sound its deep connection to other forms of being." Essentially, artists like Martin who were invested in Zen Buddhism could express the deeply personal, or as Martin called it, "the true," in an amorphous, abstracted, non representational manner. As we see here in "Night Sea," Martin divides up the canvas into a grid of teal squares. Upon first inspection, the picture plan is defined by this grid, but the more we ponder the composition, we become more aware of the fact that - maybe - the blue squares are brought forward in space by being painted on top of the brownish canvas behind it. This interplay between background and foreground, and ultimately between knowing and unknowing, speaks to the struggle of being a closeted artist in mid 20th century America. Additionally, in a beautiful gesture, Martin (and Katz) illuminates how abstraction can bring forth the most intimate and personal details of an artist's life through a negation of the body and naturalism. •
"Night Sea," Agnes Martin, oil, crayon, and gold leaf on linen, 1963.
#agnesmartin #nightsea #jonathandavidkatz#queerart #queerhistory
Gary Indiana, "Untitled (Stanley Park)"
In the late 18th century, philosopher Jeremy Bentham theorized one of the most enduring architectural and political constructs, one which continues to fascinate and scare thinkers in multiple disciplines: the panopticon. The panopticon is a system, a locus, of control that was originally articulated as a prison blueprint. This prison would consist of multistory jail cells, arranged in a circle, that open onto a large courtyard where the prison guards would watch in a tower. Because of this design, prisoners could not leave their cell for fear of falling to their death, but more importantly, the way the prison guards could watch every prisoner at once from their 360 degree vantage point produced an internal imprisonment, a harsh self-regulation based on modeling their behavior to adhere to the guard's wishes and therefore, the state's. This architectural design has been mapped onto art historical discourse insofar as it is a means of considering how individuals police themselves and their bodies into adhering to the relentless control of the governing body, or multitude of hegemonies more generally. In "Untitled (Stanley Park)" artist Gary Indiana showed footage from the Cuban prison "Presidio Modelo" (which as we can see in the lower left picture was designed as a panopticon) with cross cut images of a jellyfish (which I explain in the comments) and nude men, mostly men of color. In this marrying of imagery, Indiana weaves a tale of the process of self-regulation, code switching, and forced comportment that men of color, queer and not queer (although the nude motif certainly begs the question about whether Indiana is emphasizing how his desire of the male form is policed), are forced to enact to appease the "prison guards" of everyday life, which often resemble facets of an institutionalized state apparatus. •
"Untitled (Stanley Park)," Gary Indiana, production stills from video, 2013.
#garyindiana #panopticon #presidiomodelo#jellyfish #queerart #queerarthistory
Lyle Ashton Harris, "Ecktachrome Archives"
The foundational moments of the gay liberation movement are often thought of in terms of macro politics or, when made intimate, focus on the decaying bodies of AIDS victims. This imagery is vital for remembering the suffering of the 1980s and 1990s but the interior lives of queer people during his time were not unilaterally defined by death and destruction, even though that spectre was (I imagine) constantly present. Lyle Ashton Harris's (@lyleashtonharris) photography project "Ecktachrome Archives" documents exactly this underdeveloped narrative of the intersection of personal life in the face of political upheaval. Mostly consisting of pieces from 1986-2000, these photographs were taken during the second wave of AIDS activism, and the incorporation of queerness and blackness into the blockbuster contemporary art world, including scenes of both private life like the one included here and public political moments like the Black Popular Culture Conference of 1991. By remarrying the personal and the political, Harris successfully articulates the way politics will necessarily affect the quotidian existence of people, but at the same time, the way affected communities will resist and react to political oppression and form personal narratives and visualizations of sexuality, race, power, friendship, and loss. •
Also- some of Harris's archive is on display right now at the Whitney Biennial in NYC!
"Lyle Ashton Harris, London, 1992" from his "Ecktachrome Archives," Lyle Ashton Harris, 1992.
#lyleashtonharris #ecktachromearchives #queerart#queerhistory #queerphotography #whitneybiennial
"Paul Thek and his Circle in the 1950s", curated by Jonathan Katz
In 2013, the Leslie-Lohman Museum sought to rewrite the way art historians have thought about about the 1950s, and their focus on communist censorship that covers up the more pervasive culture of homophobia that existed during the Eisenhower administration. To do so, they presented an exhibition that reconsidered Paul Thek and the circle of gay artists whom he loved, worked with, and was inspired by. The mission of the exhibition was to not only reiterate Thek’s queerness, which (as with any queer artist) has been suppressed, but to also articulate how gay artists were not always struggling in isolation but were often a part of a supportive artistic community. The exhibition focuses on Thek’s relationship with Paul Harvey, Peter Hujar, Joe Raffael, Theodore Newman, and others through the photographs taken of and by these men. All in all, therefore, the exhibition does not focus on the work that has made Thek or the other artists famous, but instead on the intimate portraits they took of each other. This photograph in particular shows Paul Thek (on the right) and Paul Harvey, who began dating after Thek moved to Miami in 1954. As you can see, the work in the show was not necessarily investigating the nuances of queer repression, nor were they expositions of complicated queer theory, but were instead rather simple: they show queer love & intimacy. Queerness is often bastardized through being presented as disgusting, fetishistic, and abnormal, so these simple visualizations of queer tenderness, of intimacy, are crucial in recasting how our communities have been presented. I am not necessarily even focusing on each individual photograph, but instead on the curatorial mission enacted by L-L and Jonathan Katz, specifically. He created an exhibition focused on queer love and friendship as something beautiful and heart warming, reminding us that the sweeter relics of queer history must also be exalted and remembered. •
Show: "Paul Thek and his Circle in the 1950s," co-curated by Jonathan Katz and Peter Harvey, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, 2013.
Photograph: "Untitled (Peter Harvey and Paul Thek in NYC), Wilbur Pippin, photograph, 1956.
Jonathan Horowtiz, "Rainbow American Flag for Jasper in the Style of the Artist's Boyfriend"
Apart from the reference to Jasper Johns (placing him in a genealogy of queer artistry) with his "Flags," artist Jonathan Horowitz effectively narrates, or at least calls to mind, the liminal existence of queer people in America, situated in between incorporation by the nation-state and marginalization. This is, of course, is dependent on re-coloring the American flag with the rainbow, which has come to symbolize the movement run by the gay establishment. On one hand, he queers this symbol of American nationhood, speaking to the rapidly increasing gay acceptance and political advancement of the 21st century (and I say gay on purpose, because sexual difference has been an easier pill for Americans to swallow than issues of trans and genderqueer liberation). In particular, the flag most readily brings to mind the growing number of states that had allowed gay marriage by the time this flag was made in 2013. Almost simultaneously, however, any optimistic feelings of acceptance by the state also bring forth discomfort because of the immediate implication of assimilation into the nation's dominant ideologies, which only years before were the mechanisms of our oppression. As we stare at this flag longer, it becomes unclear whether it is being subverted by the rainbow coloring, or acting as it's host, it's mediator, and ultimately, it's puppet master. This speaks to a growing fear amongst the queer community that when "pride" is given a hashtag, when queerness is accepted and sponsored by corporations only insofar as it increases their profits, and when marriage becomes a fatalistic model for queer life, that queerness loses its identity and voice altogether. This parallax perfectly captures the feelings surrounding gay politics in the 21st century, specifically the struggle between asking for equality while maintaining community that necessarily must employ the state while keeping it at bay. •
"Rainbow American Flag for Jasper in the Style of the Artist's Boyfriend," Jonathan Horowitz, glitter and enamel on linen, 2013.
Zach Blas, "Face Cages"
Technological advancement, specifically in the realm of bioengineering, has always been in conflict with queerness in its rigid classifications of what a body is, how it works, and how it performs. Artist Zach Blas (@zachblas) explores how biometrics continues to summarily define people in direct opposition to and causing directing harm for non-normative bodies and identities. Blas had four queer artists create biometric diagrams of their faces, put them on, and subsequently filmed them wearing the masks for around ten minutes. To quote the artist, "these diagrams are a kind of abstraction gone bad, a visualization of the reduction of the human to a standardized, ideological diagram. When these diagrams are extracted from the humans they cover over, they appear as harsh and sharp incongruous structures; they are, in fact, digital portraits of dehumanization." Additionally, Blas points out that the masks are extremely uncomfortable to wear, evoking the struggle and suffering of the queer body attempting to survive within a hegemony. The haunting effect of Blas's work, and the source of its immediacy and poignancy for me, is its element of foreshadowing. As we propel into a further automated, quantized, logarithmic world, how will non-normative bodies and communities exist within a structure predicated on averages, standards, and precedent? The struggle of these artists to literally wear the face of the biometrically determined "tomorrow" reminds us to stay vigilant in an ideology of fluidity that supports and encourages difference. •
Image: Artist's website
Jez Dolan, "Nancy"
In "The History of Sexuality," Michel Foucault states that "the homosexual" was invented when it was given a name and label in the 19th century. His idea that linguistic and discursive mechanisms were crucial in subject formation, sexual identity being a part of that journey, has been pivotal in understanding when and how queer communities have formed. In his effort to dig into lost queer histories and archives, artist Jez Dolan has reanimated Foucault's focus on how queer people have been discussed and more specifically, how they have been castigated through slurs. "Nancy," shown here, alludes to the 1930s burlesque character known by the same name- an effeminate, goofy man who added humor and lightness to an otherwise unacknowledged and oppressed American gay community through his acting. "Nancy" became a pejorative after mayor Fiorello LaGuardia cracked down on burlesque performers in hopes of creating a "respectable" city that could be morally justified in hosting the 1939 worlds fair, rid of the any vestiges of queer acceptance. "Nancy," thus, became a word used against gay men that had implications of moral decay. By creating volumetric letters that spell out "Nancy" (Dolan has another that says "faggot") he, on one hand, reclaims the word, but also exposes a transgenerational narrative of queer language - indeed much of his research focuses not on contemporary society but on the 19th century activist George Cecil Ives. Whether words were used between or against queer communities, they are important for understanding the circumstances and nuances that have mediated our progress. •
"Expanded Visions" at Leslie-Lohman
Gonzalo Casals, the new director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in NYC, oversaw the reopening of the museum on Friday! The gallery space has essentially doubled in size, and the current exhibition, "Expanded Visions: Fifty Years of Collecting" consists of over 250 pieces selected from the museum's rich collection. Casals ushers in not only a new physical space, but also an institutional mission to expand the museum's scope beyond the white cis-male dominated definition of LGBTQ. Check out L-L when you're in New York City, it really is a jewel!
#leslielohmanmuseum #gonzalocasals #queerart#queerarthistory #queermuseums
Image: AMP News
Michelangelo Buonarroti, "The Rape of Ganymede"
I completely forgot to wish Michelangelo Buonarroti, (one of) the gay superstar(s) of the Italian Renaissance, a happy birthday yesterday! While the painter and sculptor's enduring legacy has been one of anatomical precision in his sculpture and his heroic decoration of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, his sexuality, and homosexuality during the Renaissance more generally, have largely been overlooked. Indeed, in 15th and 16th century Italy (with oscillating frequency based on the strictness of the reigning pope) men were absolutely having sex with one another in an acknowledged process of maturation. Boys and girls grew up in isolation from one another to avoid pre marital sex, specifically aimed at maintaining female virginity, which forced boys into a homosocial environment. Naturally, these boys had sex. Homosexuality (not that this was thought of as an identity, but merely a sex act) was not thought of as morally justifiable, but instead as an inevitability of pubescence, but for Michelangelo that "inevitability" aligned with a natural proclivity for same sex love and attraction. This sketch of the rape of Ganymede speaks to the artist's sexuality in two ways. For one, it was sent as a gift to his young lover, Tomasso dei Cavalieri, to profess his love and adoration. The reason the sketch communicates affection in particular though, is it's subject. Ganymede was a shepherd's son who Jupiter fell in love with because of the boy's beauty. Jupiter, transforming himself into an eagle swooped down to earth to bring him back to Olympus to be the cup-bearer of the Gods. Through this story, and the obvious implication of Ganymede "servicing" the Gods, Ganymede has become the most common symbol of homosexuality in classical antiquity and consequently, the Italian Renaissance. Michelangelo uses this symbolism in this sketch to communicate his own affection for the young man Cavalieri. •
"The Rape of Ganymede," Michelangelo Buonarroti, chalk and charcoal on paper, ~1550.
#michelangelo #michelangelogay#michelangelobuonarroti #queerart #queerarthistory#queerhistory
Mikael Owunna, "Odera"
What comes with a label? In a Western context, being able to identify as queer has been a blessing because it allows people to find community and acceptance. We must remember, however, that this system of codification has infiltrated all parts of the world, bringing with it an inflated sense of authority and subjugation of queer identities not called queer in the non-Western world. Mikael Owunna is tackling this intellectual colonialism and its effect on African identity in his photo project Limit(less). Owunna finds and photographs the queer African community living in Europe and the USA in an effort to document this demographic's effort to reconcile their queerness and their African roots. In addition to bigotry that exists everywhere, queer Africans face additional challenges because queerness as a concept is often seen as being caused by "exposure to the Western world gone wrong," which denies these people both their sexual and gender identity and stigmatizes their diaspora. Through a focus on queer African fashion and beauty, Owunna seeks to see how diasporic presentation can constitute part of the "limitless" plethora of self-presentation in spite of the "limits" diasporic subjects face. Here we see one of his models - Odera - a queer Nigerian-American. •
"Odera," Mikael Owunna, photograph, 2015.
#mikaelowunna #limitless #queerart #queerarthistory#queerphotography
Mickalene Thomas, "A Little Taste Outside of Love"
"Post-blackness" - theorized by legendary curator Thelma Goldman - paves the way for black artists to work within the current historical moment on an equal playing field with their white peers as artists who have the agency to work in transcendence of their race. Goldman and her post-blackness narrative, therefore, defines blackness outside of what “black art" has come to mean for art history in the late 20th and 21st century, where considerations of past trauma and black political struggle are necessities, with the goal of allowing black artists to engage however and with whatever they choose. In “A Little Taste Outside of Love,” Mickalene Thomas perfectly captures the gray area between the visual vocabularies of black art as marketed by whiteness, and art situated within post-blackness. The woman’s black body and afro take the pose of Ingres’s model in “La grande odalisque,” and in doing so, Thomas carries out a well-rehearsed contemporary gesture of reinserting blackness into the canon (see: Kehinde Wiley, Rashaad Newsome). Similarly, Thomas’s depiction of the female nude is fundamentally different than Ingres’s because she is a woman, negating the exploitative nature of the male gaze upon female flesh. Thomas is also queer though, so we must keep desire in mind as we enact her gaze. The "post-black" aesthetic is tied in with the painting's queerness because we are being shown a fundamentally queered version of blackness. Although Thomas plays into certain trends of contemporary black art practice, this work also displays her immense skill as a painter in a rather formalist manner. The complex array of media, the subtle balance between the mustard yellows, grays, and deep brown, and her unique ability to collage-into-being a sense of space are all a part of how Thomas rewrites black artistry as not only something that must engage with history and expose past injustice, but can also more simply show off virtuosa. • "A Little Taste Outside of Love" Mickalene Thomas, acrylic, enamel, and rhinestone on panel, 2007.
#mickalenethomas #alittleoutsideoflove #queerart#queerarthistory #brooklynmuseum#derekconradmurray
Note: post-blackness in NO way supports a "post-racial" view of the world but instead provides a transformed version of black identity in contrast with how it has been strategized and tokenized by the white marketplace.
Leah DeVun, "Our Hands on Each Other"
An inherent issue with any reclamation of queer history is that it focuses our communities' existence in the past. The implication of this temporal positioning is that movements appear static and defined by what they once were, and not how they have morphed and persisted in the current moment. One victim of this problematic mythologizing is the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970s. An ideology centered on queer place-making, lesbian separatism called for a removal from social institutions and metropoles, which are productions of the patriarchy, and a move to isolation in the natural world. Remembered through seminal films like Barbara Hammer's "Dyketactics," lesbian separatism has been remembered as a relic of past politics, however, communities of lesbian separatists persist. The homes created by these groups were documented in Leah DeVun's series "Our Hands On Each Other", some of which are shown here. These homes serve as stationary reminders of a dynamic, ever changing faction of lesbian separatists, but also exhibit the process of queer collective craft, architecture and community building. In every floorboard and window, we are reminded of the heteropatriarchal society that targeted and oppressed queer people, and the confident and aestheticized reaction constructed by these groups of women to create a world outside of and in sharp contrast to these systems of control. Additionally, in the process of DeVun interviewing and photographing these women and their houses, an intergenerational queer connection is made, further emphasizing the life and relevance these communities have outside of their status remembered from the 1970s. DeVun exhumed a community lost in legend, showing us a part of this country's queer roots but also reminding us that our queer ancestry grows old, stays political, and deserves our acknowledgment. •
Excerpts from "Our Hands On Each Other," Leah DeVun, photographs, 2010.
#leahdevun #ourhandsoneachother #queerart#queerarthistory
Grant Wood, "Arnold Comes of Age"
American artists flocked to Paris throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, both to be a part of its venerated tradition of academic painting, but also to experience the more progressive cultural climate that existed there. Grant Wood was one of these painters seduced by Paris’s mythos, visiting the city three times in the 1920s, but was not charmed upon his arrival. After his last trip to Europe in 1928, Wood returned to Iowa where he painted his most famous work, “American Gothic” in 1930. In the same year, however, he completed “Arnold Comes of Age” - shown above. Woods is now famous for showing the abundant beauty of the midwestern landscape and the resolute dignity of those who lived there, and he brings a similarly restrained sensibility to this portrait. In other words, he does not stylize queerness through the same visual vocabulary as someone like Wilhelm von Gloeden, for example. Instead of paying close attention to Arnold’s musculature or painting him nude, Wood speaks to the psychological aspects of the gay man’s coming out in mid 20th century Iowa through iconographic means. Most noticeably, set into the bottom right corner of the painting, we see two nude boys swimming in a river, an almost cliché scene taken from the gay youth's imaginary. More subtle, and more beautiful, however, is the message embedded in the butterfly that just passes by Arnold’s right elbow. On one hand the butterfly morphs from an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful winged creature, it evolves into itself, it “comes out” if you will. Additionally though, the french word for butterfly - “papillon” - is also slang for “gay man”. Therefore, through the symbolism of the butterfly, Wood effectively queers this painting and specifies that the story of Arnold coming of age is really his acceptance and perhaps even advertisement of his homosexuality. Because we know that Grant Wood was gay, we can also see his piece as a coded exposition and metaphor of his own nascent process of sexual self-identification and struggle of how to “come out” in the conservative American midwest. •
Jacolby Slatterwhite, "Reifying Desire 6"
Jacolby Slatterwhite is technically an animator but should really be considered a "world builder." Using the software MAYA, Slatterwhite draws extra terrestrial scenes that sometimes resemble shopping malls, sometimes futuristic play-structures, or even spaceships. Within these vistas inhabit a cacophony of visual stimuli. Chiefly we focus on Slatterwhite as he flies around his creations, his voguing body serving as a stabilizing referent for the constantly changing array of alien figures, floating textual passages, and laser beams. The "camerawork," although obviously this isn't filmed per se, is dizzying. We traverse the scene in jolts and bursts, the artificiality of the environment and media allowing Slatterfield to show us impossible angles and trajectories. Within this chaos, however, lay three major constants, or at least recognizable motifs: pictures originally created by his mother (images as wild as a remote control penis), an aestheticized imaginative landscape, and Slatterfield himself. Therefore, through these motifs and the inherently fantastical kinetics, the artist paves new ways of considering and interacting with our subconscious and image of ourself, with our own historical roster of influences and our current being. Within this dream like milieu, Slatterfield considered political questions of the "real world," including sexuality. Made in 2014, "Reifying Desire 6," shows Slatterfield having sex with porn actor Antonio Biaggi. This iteration of the "Reifying Desire" series was made in 2014, and consequently with the dissemination of Truvada, the ground breaking medication that allows for HIV protection. Truvada opened up a revived imaginary for queer sexuality, it served as a (imperfect) realization of the dream of the 1980: a safe reinstitution of queer sexual liberation. By placing that fantasy within the context of his MAYA worlds, Slatterwhite both recalls our natural inclination to view queer futures in a fantasy context, while celebrating through CGI the sexual future of queer people in the real world. •
William Way LGBT Community Center
We must not forget that queer liberation has always been and always will be centered around local movements made up of local organizations made up of a city's locals, like you! Philadelphia's largest queer community center is William Way in Center City. In addition to being a massive support system for Philadelphia's queer community equipped with peer counseling, the city's largest queer library and archive, and opportunities for political activism, it also has quite an art collection, some which is shown here. On the top left we see William Way himself, a pioneer in the city's gay activism of the 1970s. To his right is Ada Bello Gomez, described by the center as a "pre-Stonewall lesbian activist" and major donor to the organization. Finally, on the bottom is a small snippet of a gorgeous mural that adorns one side of the building. Painted by Ann Northrup in 2003, "Pride and Progress" shows a chorus of people celebrating the 1966 gay civil rights march. Re_gayze has mostly showcased visual artists who work within the gallery and museum world, but when investigating queer art, we must consider queer vistas, queer methods of production, and queer localities. William Way is a beautiful example of how important art has been and continues to be for queer communities throughout the United States. If you're in the area, you must stop by the center at 1315 Spruce Street. • "William Way," William Way Collection, oil on canvas, date unknown.
"The Alchemist," Deborah Caiola, oil on panel, 2006. "Pride and Progress," Ann Northrup, painted mural, 2003.
Todd Haynes, "Poison"
In one of the most controversial productions of the 20th century, "Poison," director Todd Haynes established himself as a staple figure in what came to be called the "New Queer Cinema." This movement grew out of the gay avant-garde films of the 60s, but reoriented queerness's role in film from simple exposure or aesthetic pleasurability to a political statement and ideology. Haynes divides "Poison" into three cross-cut storylines: Hero, Horror, and Homo. In the latter we are presented with one of the most iconic images of queer film in the 1990s- shown here. It is taken from a scene at the end of the film, taking the form of a flashback to a prison where character John Broom spent much of this teenage years. The prisoners file into a brightly lit oasis where it soon becomes clear that Broom will be punished in a seemingly ritualistic performance. Indeed, Broom is forced to kneel down on the ground in front of the other boys while they begin to spit on his face. As the scene progresses, the spattering of saliva turns into a downpour, completely covering Broom's face. While the scene is undeniably hard to watch, it is not merely used for shock value. Instead, the horror we as an audience feel is a reflection of the general paranoia that surrounded the queer abject- including fluids as harmless as saliva- during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Haynes forces us to confront our own evaluation of the queer body as a weapon- as "poisonous." Also, because the other prisoners, who are presumably straight, are the ones lodging the attack, Haynes reminds us that straight people and their homophobia were equally implicated in the AIDS crisis. It was not just the AIDS virus, which was inappropriately sequestered exclusively to the realm of queer sex, that killed gay people, but also the inaction, apathy, and fear of straight people in power. •
Still from "Poison," directed by Todd Haynes, film, 1991.
Christian Leyendecker, "Men Reading"
Before Mad Men exhumed the fascination that surrounded New York City advertising agencies in the early 20th century, illustrator Christian Leyendecker drew the seminal caricature of the intense, masculine and muscled executive. He sketched marketing campaigns for everything from clothing brands to the U.S. Navy, but in each the consistent thread was the attention he paid to articulating the male models' powerful bodies. In this way, Leyendecker made contemporary the homoeroticism of Ancient Greek civilization, where there was also a focus on tactile male musculature. In this illustration, "Men Reading," we essentially see nude sculpture draped in suits and ties. Focusing on Leyendecker's partner Charles Beach, who serves as the model for the man perched on the edge of the desk, we see the importance Leyendecker placed on the male form. By situating him on the edge of the desk, his pants become tightly pulled around his thighs, his shirt similarly outlines the man's chest, and although he is not standing, his arm on his side clearly references a classical pose. Finally, with both men, their chiseled jawline exposes the time Leyendecker spent making these men beautiful. While people would have seen this advertisement simply as men reading in their social club, we can look back knowing of Beard and Leyendecker's relationship and read the passion and intrigue that the male form inspired for the artist. •
"Men Reading," Christian Leyendecker, illustration with oil paint, 1914.
Claude Cahun, "Claude Cahun"
Claude Cahun represents one of the central inconsistencies in art historical scholarship revolving around questions of identity. While an artist’s gender and race are unflinchingly mapped onto their artistic production, in ways that often feel inappropriate, the same epistemological assumptions of queer identity are not, even in the most obvious cases. Cahun has fallen prey to this problematic erasure. Her “self-portraiture" (which was actually taken by her partner, Marcel Moore), has been discussed in terms of a plethora of art historical modes including surrealism and feminism but her lesbianism and gender bending have been cast aside as meaningless coincidence, separate from her actual artistic project. In an effort to recontextualize Cahun with her queerness but also her specific historical moment, Carolyn Dean provides immensely helpful insight into the culture of homosexuality in early 20th century France: "homosexuality no longer signified a distorted reality, but, rather, distortion as a permanent dimension of all social relations, a shift in which homosexuality symbolized the social body's real permeability.” In this photograph, Cahun distorts reality and perception by showing us her most common motif - the body double. With the body double, we are simultaneously presented with a double image that inflects and changes the “original”. In this sense, Cahun visualizes the intensely fragmented nature of identity, how one can continually wade through multiple and potentially unending versions of the self and manage to represent that amalgamation to the world. This philosophical foundation to her work, in addition to her frank gender bending and explicit lesbianism (the mark of her queer sexuality is “presented” in every photograph by us taking on Moore’s gaze), remind us that queerness must be tackled by art historians as a legitimate mode of unpacking the artist’s voice and mission. •
"Claude Cahun," Claude Cahun (taken by partner Marcel Moore), photograph, 1928.
#claudecahun #marcelmoore #queerphotography#queerart #queerarthistory
Thank you @izzy_kent for the suggestion- you're a star!
R.I.P. Ren Hang
R.I.P. to Ren Hang, an unbelievable talent who is gone too early. His work pushed the confines of a conservative Chinese government insistent on cleansing domestic art of sexuality. His photography, as he has stated many times, was focused chiefly on the naked body and interactions between naked people for their evocation of the organic and natural. However, his work also clarified the infantilizing and often exploitative western conception of Chinese sexuality: "I don’t want others having the impression that Chinese people are robots with no cocks or pussies ... Or they do have sexual genitals but always keep them as some secret treasures. I want to say that our cocks and pussies are not embarrassing at all" (Dian Hanson, "Hang, Well Hung). In this effort, models were often placed in homoerotic and/or explicitly homosexual compositions like the one shown here. So, although Hang was not interested in his work being scanned for a sociopolitical voice, his interest in frankly and honestly exalting the naked Chinese body also brought in themes of queer liberation by giving people of the same sex a visual platform to be naked alongside each other. Hang will be greatly missed as one of the defining figures in contemporary photography but his work will continue to amaze for its visceral and gorgeous rendering of the human form.•
Tuesday Smillie, "Gender > Genitalia"
The power and message of Tuesday Smillie's banner "Gender > Genitals" feels particularly relevant today, after Trump rescinded protections for trans students that allowed them to use the bathroom of their choosing. Smilie was inspired by the classic feminist novel "The Left Hand of Darkness," written by Ursula K. LeGuin, in which the author creates a world free of gender codification and populated by an entirely androgynous population. Smillie's project "The Right Brain of Darkness," according to her Artist Statement, "centers imagination as a radical tool." In the same way that LeGuin narrates a genderless world, Smillie highlights the absurd focus on trans peoples' genitalia that supplants a recognition of their voice, their humanity, and gender identity. Let's get to work making Smillie's imaginative world a reality. •
For any trans or GNB seeking support in this scary time, here are several organizations prepared to help you:
Trevor Project - (866) 488-7386
Trans Lifeline - (877) 565-8860
For Philadelphians, specifically:
Attic Youth Center - (215) 545-4331
William Way Community Center - (215) 732-2220
Scott Burton, "Two-Part Chair"
"Two-Part Chair" is indicative of the manner with which queer artists named and presented their work to conservative cultural institutions during Raegan's administration. Burton uses the title to draw attention away from the obvious composition of one man penetrating another. By advertising the sculpture exclusively in terms of its function as a chair, Burton was able to market his work for sale, eventually selling it to a relatively common office building in New York City, where it lived in the lobby amongst lifeless, corporate artworks characteristic of the modernist quotidian. The implication of its position within the office building is one of apoliticism, safety, and, consequently, straightness. For me, this piece is one of the best examples of how far the art world is willing to go in its effort to de-queer its productions. For, not only is the sculpture easily read as a scene of anal intercourse, but also, because it functions as a chair, it draws people in the lobby into the carnal action. Each sitter becomes a threesome's third party, each viewer, a voyeur, and either way one becomes an unwittingly complicit partner in the scene's queerness. In this way, Burton's choice to sell the sculpture to a drab office building can be re-read. It's placement is no longer seen as a concession to the heteronormative marketplace but instead a subversive act, queering a space defined by straightness vis-à-vis it's banality. The chair's queerness, however, continues to be ignored in its presentation. Presented on the @artsy website, the chair is described as coming "out of a desire to marry function with aesthetics in the tradition of Russian Constructivism, De Stijl, and the Bauhaus" with no mention of the artist's gayness nor the obvious way the sculpture evokes anal sex. Again, we see the comical attempt by the art market to blanket queer productions in formalist vocabulary, not only erasing relics of queer history but also denying a full understanding of the work of art. • "Two-Part Chair," Scott Burton, Deer Island granite, 1986.
niv Acosta, "DISCOTROPIC"
niv Acosta is a choreographer and performance artist who works at the thematic intersection of Afrofuturism, dance, science fiction, the politics of space and access, and queerness. At the New Museum's third triennial, Acosta shared "DISCOTROPIC," a three part dance piece focusing on creating and finding a history of black queerness in reference to and in an attempt to overcome past oppression. Acosta reasserts his own trans body into the hegemonic whiteness, straightness, and cisgendered Institution (yes, with a capital I) and by doing so simultaneously calls to mind past censorship while giving an awe-inspiring glimpse into a future of black queerness within museums. This forethought speaks to the piece's original inspiration. Acosta is deeply interested in science fiction, including Star Wars, and presumably that fascination relates to a sci-fi author's ability to create worlds of their choosing. Looking at "DISCOTROPIC" in this light, we see Acosta not only representing black queerness in the institution but also taking control over the institution in its construction of the future where black queerness *will* be present. Additionally, from my vantage point, so much of the power of Acosta's piece is that his layered, incisive politics are packaged in stunning choreography. The viewers at the New Museum that day, and the rest of the world through Vimeo (#bless), are able to simultaneously think critically about representation and who is allowed to perform in spaces branded with a conservative stamp of approval, while also seeing and feeling the beauty, power, and creativity of queer, black bodies. •
•Thank you to Hannah Muellerleile for the recommendation- if you have a suggestion of a piece you want to see on @re_gayze, contact me at email@example.com
Marc Quinn, "Buck & Allannah"
While @re_gayze has and always will prioritize showcasing the work and voices of queer artists, it is also important to understand how our communities have been tokenized, fetishized, and exploited by straight artists. Here we see sculptures made by Marc Quinn, who was a central member of the YBA movement (YBA = Young British Artists, made up by artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and represented by famed gallerist Charles Saatchi). They "represent" trans porn actors Buck Angel and Allanah Starr, in life-size scale, coated in bronze. The sculpture group to the left shows them nude, holding hands in a pose that has been described by @julianahuxtable as evoking Adam & Eve imagery. The consequence of such a reference is that it narrates a very compressed trans history, one whose origin story begins with the trans celebrities of the 21st century despite the community's existence throughout the historical record (again we must remember the notions of sexual and gender identity are modern constructions). Misrepresentation turns to exploitation in the top right image where Allannah penetrates Buck. Trans people have long been forced into sex work because of employer discrimination. Therefore, by choosing to show two trans sex workers working in that capacity as opposed to simply existing, Quinn mocks their struggle and disempowerment by the straight, cisgender majority he is a part of. In addition to all of this damaging iconography, Buck and Allanah are painted in bronze, rendering them cultural tokens as opposed to living, breathing people. •
"Buck & Allanah" series, Marc Quinn, orbital sanded and flap wheeled lacquered bronze, 2009.
Jasper Johns - Really?
I love art museums. I love being privy to a kaleidoscope of aesthetic traditions all housed under one roof. I love thinking about how visual campaigns can serve as expositions of otherwise inexpressible emotion. We must recognize, sadly, that these museums are not utopias but are subject to censorship, pressure, and a donor base. While cultural institutions have made major strides towards acknowledging the untold artistic histories of marginalized communities, simple wall labels like these serve as erasure. Jasper Johns- really? Of all the queer artists in the world, to summarily define Johns as a formalist solely interest in taking "detours" around self-expression is laughable. If this is how sexuality is treated for a canonized white man, imagine the work that must be done for those queer artists whose intersectional identities leave them even further displaced from the normative milieu. I love museums. I love art. Let's make sure we think critically while we walk through these beautiful places - what and who is being obscured, exploited, or made palatable?
P.S. Jasper Johns was gay and was in a partnership with Robert Rauschenberg, and they were "couple friends" with John Cage and Merce Cunningham. "Professional relationship" is code speak.
Suzanne Wright, "Rainbow Highway"
In Suzanne Wright's "Rainbow Highway" we are provided with a highly critical, almost parodying narrative of the male gaze. On one hand, the viewer takes on the perspective of someone driving along a bridge. Simultaneously, we see a nude woman from the posterior. There is an obvious association here between the objectifying nature of the male gaze and the construction we are "driving" on. Wright'sdrawing is particularly brilliant, however, because of how the viewer becomes unquestionably implicated in the forward thrust towards the looming figure's genitalia. In this sense, the drawing serves as an activity for viewers to think self-reflexively about their own participation in systems of female oppression, exploitation, and objectification. Suzanne Wright, who was an active member of gay rights groups in the 1990s, and a lesbian woman, also queers this "landscape." She seems to be questioning or experimenting with the lesbian gaze. Is it merely defined by a queer woman taking on the male gaze? How do we extricate the commercialized image of lesbianism- constructed by men (just like the bridge)- from artistic practice? The politics of the gaze, an ever recurring question of feminist and post-colonial art history, are recontextualized here to think about how queer women will fight against, subvert, and triumph over their oppressors who also use them as fantasy. •
"Rainbow Highway," Suzanne Wright, Color Pencil on paper, 2007.
Wilhelm von Gloeden, "Dolabella"
One of the original campaigns for gay liberation was situated in late 19th century Weimar Germany. Magnus Hirschfeld was a central figure in the movement. His career as a physician informed his argument for gay rights, one predicated on biological essentialism. Hirschfeld insisted that gay men and women constituted a third sex, perhaps originating the misconflation of gender and sexuality that continues to plague contemporary rhetoric. While Hirschfeld was fighting for social progress, he was simultaneously predicating gay rights on the forgiveness of straight people, on an idea that gay people should be pitied for their inescapable fate as the human Other. In reaction to Hirschfeld's movement, a group of activists published the very first gay rights publication- "Der Eigene." The title of the periodical, which loosely translates to "the specials" or "the own" indicates the staff's agenda. Der Eigene exalted homosexuality as a model to strive for, therefore, instead of seeking acceptance the writers and photographers (including Wilhelm von Gloeden whose work we see here) created work that spoke of homosexuality's desirability and superiority. That rhetoric harkened back to classical antiquity, where homosexual practice was seen as the purest form of love, one which trained both one's body and intellect. This photograph, printed in Der Eigene, is indicative of these classical sensibilities. The nude young man, the crown of flowers, and his stare into history all point to an Ancient Greek influence. It is also important to note here that Der Eigene was mostly used for the social and legal advancement of white men. This bias persists in queer movements of the 20th century, and here see part of that inequality's historical precedent.•
"Dolabella," Wilhelm von Gloeden, photograph, 1902, published in Der Eigene catalogue no. 1248
Richard Fung, "Sea in the Blood"
This is the first film featured on re_gayze! I will attempt to stick to media that are most conducive to Instagram, Facebook, or the website, but queer artists turned in droves to video pieces throughout the 20th century and those projects are crucial to any consideration of contemporary queer art practice. This is a still from Richard Fung's "Sea in the Blood," a film organized around illness - both his sister's struggle with thalassemia and his partner Tim's AIDS diagnosis. Lily Cho, an English Professor at York University, has discussed the film in terms of its illustration of "proleptic loss." In other words, the film creates two storylines centered on Fung grappling with the imminent death of his sister and his lover. The AIDS epidemic took so many lives so quickly in the 1980s and 1990s - and the FDA took so long to procure medication - both of which forced members of the gay community to perpetually grapple with compounding feelings of future loss in the present moment. Therefore, producing the film in 2000 with the epidemic fresh in the minds of queer people, Fung visualized a particularly timely nuance of queer trauma. •
"Sea in the Blood," Richard Fung, Video, 2000.
"The Warren Cup," unknown artist
Homosexuality and homosociality were constants of the ancient social milieu, and were naturally visualized in artistic production. "The Warren Cup," produced in Ancient Rome, is one of the most explicit examples of this. On the left we see one side of the cup, where a man steadies himself with a strap of some sort as he settles himself onto his partner's phallus. On the right we see a similar representation of intercourse between two men. The erotic function of this type of decor was to preview and encourage the actualization of the depicted scenes, pointing to the well acknowledged culture of queerness (this term is obviously being employed anachronistically) of the most famous ancient Western civilizations. While the Greek tradition of pederasty has been widely noted for its educational purposes, hoping to teach young men the values of courage and discipline by an older mentor, Ancient Rome did not celebrate such a tradition. Therefore, this Roman cup remains a subversive artifact in its unflinching depiction of intergenerational sex between men. Looking at this cup in the 21st century, it is also a reminder that homosexuality has always been an acknowledged orientation, or at the very least a practice, that is interrogated, mediated, and as we see here, exalted, in the visual arts. •
"The Warren Cup," unknown artist, silver, 5-15 CE.
Andrea Buettner, "ATM"
Queer theorist Eve Sedgwick, in "Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity," provides an immensely helpful explanation of queerness that is divorced from sexuality and is instead defined in its positioning of queer people "beside" - not opposite from - their straight peers. Complicating the notion of the queer other, Sedgwick aligns society as a number of elements lying alongside each other. The importance of this theorization to the visual arts is that queerness can be read into pieces are that not explicitly sexual but nevertheless reorient social, economic, and visual precedents and thereby force the viewer to interact with their fundamentally "queered" versions that exist alongside and in relation to their archetypes. Here we see an example of this formula of queerness. In "ATM," Andrea Buettner photographs (her intervention in the scene is unclear) an ATM smeared with what appears to be fecal matter. By doing so, she pushes the object itself, but also the commodity culture the object allows for, into the realm of shame and abject. Buettner effectively forms an alternate or "beside" visualization of commodity fetishism that uses Sedgwick's ideas of queerness to also invoke a Marxist critique (two birds one stone 😏)•
"ATM," Andrea Buettner, digital pigment print, 2011.
Andres Serrano, "Milk/Blood"
Referencing the flat planarity of the abstract expressionists and the grid motif popularized by the visual language of modernism, Andres Serrano successfully fools the trained eye into seeing "Milk/Blood" as yet another print whose emphasis lies in its formal qualities. A simple consideration of the title, however, exposes the work's reference to the devastating AIDS epidemic that was ravaging the gay male population during the work's creation - contact with infected milk and blood being the most common avenues of contracting the disease. The coded references to the epidemic enveloped in an modernist aesthetic allowed Serrano and many other queer artists during the time to have their work shown in museums without fear of censorship and their visual call to arms was nevertheless given an audience. •
"Milk/Blood," Andreas Serrano, chromogenic color print, 1989. #andresserrano #serrano #milkblood#queerprints #queerart
Harmony Hammond, "Hunkertime"
Harmony Hammond was an artistic pioneer of the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970s. These volumetric forms, which she called "swaddles," could point to an indictment of the traditional domesticity of female labor, but these sculptures really find their voice in their materiality and group composition. Made out of ladder-like structures but heavily wrapped in fabric, Hammond highlights a medium used by female artisans for centuries and, consequently, devalued by the patriarchal world of art criticism. This subversive gesture is fortified by the close arrangement of forms that seems to call for a conscious community formation, a sisterhood, a unity between women, and more specifically lesbian women, for social progress. These swaddles are also an exposition of the idealized lesbian body - defined during the separatist movement as being simultaneously strong and tender. While the swaddles are solid and imposing in their scale, by draping them in soft fabric, Hammond gives them a sensuousness and feminine tactility that certainly materializes such an ideal. •
"Hunkertime," Harmony Hammond, Cloth, wood, acrylic, gesso, latex rubber, rhoplex and metal, 1979-1980.
Joan E. Biren, "Priscilla and Regina, Brooklyn, NY"
Happy Valentine's Day ❤️ I thought you might enjoy a picture of a queer couple that heterocapitalist superstructures "forgot" to disseminate to you, they can just be so careless! Joan E. Biren was a famed documentary filmmaker, who captured images of lesbian communities in order to originate a tradition of photographic representation. To quote Biren herself, "My thing was to take pictures of people that other people weren’t taking pictures of, to make visible what was invisible … I always try to present the entire diversity of our communities. That’s very much on my mind in all of my work” (Joan Biren oral history in the Rainbow History Project Digital Collections). Pioneers like Biren remind us of the important and inherently political mission of demanding representation. She also, in this photograph specifically, showcases black intimacy, which as we can see in the photos of Robert Mapplethorpe below, was often lost and negated. •
"Priscilla and Regina, Brooklyn, NY," Joan E. Biren, photograph, 1979.
Glenn Ligon, "Notes on the Margin of the Black Book"
Published in 1986, Robert Mapplethorpe's "Black Book" was a collection of homoerotic imagery that exclusively focused on idealized nude bodies of black men. The book was highly controversial for its decontextualization of the models from anything other than their corporeality and sexual virility. Glenn Ligon reached out to philosophers (including bell hooks, whose entry is included below), curators, and religious figures and asked for their reactions to "Black Book." By placing the photographs in the same order that they appear in Mapplethorpe's publication, along with his collected "Notes," Ligon effectively narrates the inextricable power dynamic, and consequent abuse, of Mapplethorpe - as a white man - photographing nude black bodies as well as the entangled and readily fetishistic dynamic between race and desire that has always existed in the art world and beyond. Additionally, this was the first piece by Ligon to explicitly address sexuality as a thematic concern, and as Ligon has acknowledged, it effectively served as his public "coming out." •
Glenn Ligon, "Notes on the Margin of the Black Book," Offset prints and text, 1991-1993.
Sir Cecil Beaton, "Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas"
The semiotics of straight intimacy, as we know them in the 21st century, are tight knit in their essence. This photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton includes a central misfortune of queer intimacy - forced separation. Indeed, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas - who were a couple - stand apart, nor do they acknowledge each other in any tangible gesture. While that image of restraint and isolation from one another calls to mind social strictures, Beaton also drops an electric wire in the space between them, making quite plain the crackling passion shared between these two women. •
Sir Cecil Beaton, "Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas," Gelatin Silver Print, 1936. #sircecilbeaton#gertrudestein #alicebtoklas #queerart