During this year’s Pride month, a selection of exhibits across the US will showcase a variety of queer art from the political to the personal
It was 28 June 1969 when the Stonewall riots broke out in New York City, and as police raided the Stonewall Inn gay bar on Christopher Street, it also sparked the modern LGBT rights movement, resisting against violence. In 1970, the first annual Pride month followed, along with the Christopher Street Liberation Day and the first gay pride march in American history, where hundreds marched to Central Park.
Years later, Pride month continues to be a time for the LGBT community to celebrate and commemorate. This year, a series of LGBT art exhibitions are popping up, from billboards in Los Angeles to photographs of drag queens.
A History of Violence
100 Years of Solitude by Jamil Hellu. Photograph: Jamil Hellu
Opening at SOMArts in San Francisco, this group exhibition curated by Rudy Lemcke features politically charged artworks by 15 artists. With the modern LGBT movement emerging out of resistance against violence, oppression and censorship, this exhibition features works “that speak to homophobic, transphobic and gendered violence”, said Lemcke. “It’s about the deep wounds that have shaped our identity as a community.” Among the artists, Jamil Hellu is showing artwork inspired by Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law. “I am committed to speaking out against human rights abuses and bringing attention to the sociological ramifications of violence against gay people,” said Hellu. “It’s so important to keep the awareness alive that in many other parts of the world people are still being oppressed and persecuted to death because of homophobia.”
Knot Variations by Rashaad Newsome. Photograph: Aaron Maclachlan
The New York artist takes his work outdoors in Los Angeles, showing on a pair of digital billboards on Sunset Boulevard. As part of the Rich Picture, a video art billboard series curated by Jessica Rich, Newsome is showing Knot Variations, which taps into the ballroom culture and vogue dance movement that surfaced in Harlem in the 1980s. “How do marginalized people find some upward mobility by using the culture they create when it’s not being celebrated by the masses until it’s adjacent to whiteness or being recreated by white America?” he asked. “Voguing got going around the same time as the Aids crisis began, and as more people swooped in, the conversation was soon driven by people who weren’t part of the community. It’s not that people can’t participate in the culture, but those who create the culture need to have agency over it. This is work that is with, for and about the community.”
Man with Zucchini by Jim Zver. Photograph: Jim Zver
The Los Angeles Art Association has partnered up with the city of West Hollywood to present a group exhibition celebrating LGBT life during West Hollywood’s Pride Month festivities. Opening on 8 June, the exhibition is held at Gallery 825, featuring artists including Dwora Fried, who creates mixed media assemblages based on identity, portrait photographer Jim Zver and Xunzhi Sun, who is showing works from his BirthMark series. Peter Mays, executive director of the LAAA, says this exhibition “offers expression, agency and celebration of artists addressing their own, individual pride experience”.
Cast of Characters
Cynthia Nixon at Empire Cafe by Eric McNatt. Photograph: Eric McNatt
What does a queer portrait look like? Curated by artist Liz Collins, this group show of 95 artworks opening 14 June at the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division offers a look into queer portraiture of today, including former Sex and the City actor, activist and New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon. On a colorful wallpaper, portraits are hung salon-style by artists like India Salvor Menuez, the famed model who founded the Luck You artist collective, singer-songwriter Justin Vivian Bond and JD Samson from the band Le Tigre. “It’s a celebratory, vibrant and sensual experience that lays bare a rich and multifaceted community of creative people at an important cultural site in New York City,” said Collins. “Through the layers of images and varied representations of self and others coming from the queer art world, this exhibition aims to engulf visitors in a world of beings as a celebration of life.”
Daybreak: Affirmations in New Queer Photography
Victor & Harold by Vanessa Rondon. Photograph: unknown/Vanessa Rondón
Opening on 9 June at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York, this group exhibition features 12 New York artists who work in photography, including portraits of gay couples by Andrew Jarman and snapshots of drag queens by Alexis Ruiseco-Lombera. The goal of the exhibition is meant to examine gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity. “For the artists, photography, the medium of choice, is the weapon and the target,” said the museum’s director, Gonzalo Casals. “It allows them to communicate the complexities of a queer world always about to exist, while transgressing – or ‘queering’, as put by the curators – the traditional forms of portraiture and landscape to give us a glimpse of a queer future.”