This is art show is really a no-brainer for us as it’s curated by Walt Cessna and features pretty much all of our favorite artists. There’s Michael Bilsborough, Bubi Canal, Walt Cassidy, Jordan Eagles, Alesia, Exum, Benjamin Fredrickson, Leo Herrera, Brian Kenny, Naruki Kukita, Scooter LaForge, Brett Lindell, Slava Mogutin, Diego Montoya, Gio Black Peter and many more. The exhibition “is emblematic of a shifting time in the art world where technology allows artists to not only create in a different way, but also alters the way the public encounters them and their art.” All the artists in the show, according to the gallery notes, “became friends and colleagues through social media.” I would venture to say that is not completely true as I know for a fact that many of these artists knew each other way before Facebook and Instagram appeared on the scene, but whatever it sounds good in a press release. Their should be plenty of cute boys at this event (I mean with Gio, Slava and Naruki involved that’s guaranteed), and with performances by BoyWolf and music by DJ Sheba Legend, it promises to be more lively than your average art opening. So scrub up pretty k?
Walt Cessna, curator of Interface, sits down with us at the Leslie Lohman Museum to talk art and politics in the 21st century moment.
Walking through the shops and outdoor cafes of SoHo on a spring day can be soul crushing, and overcoming the desire to snuff out your cigarette in that snatched blonde’s $35 plate of truffle fries can take tremendous focus. Surrounded by people whose level of wealth is eclipsed only by their level of Basic, you feel the loss of the vital art that once thrived and then died here, the ghost of which now stares at you blankly from the glittering sockets of a limited edition Damien Hirst skull.
If you’ve ever felt this way, head to the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art on Wooster Street to see curator Walt Cessna‘s show, “Interface: Queer Artists Forming Communities Through Social Media.” There is still a living heart buried in SoHo, and on a day when the New York Times is announcing Chrystie’s first “Billion Dollar Art Sales Week,” signifying everything that is wrong with the art world, “Interface” at the Leslie Lohman is a sexy and fascinating exploration of what’s right with it.
Photographer/club kid/former fashion terrorist Cessna has gathered a truly heterogenous group of “mostly New York-based artists with active studio practices” who all “have (or have had) active relationships with social media” in an effort “to understand how this truly 21st century confection could create community and bring success to these artists.” What emerges is a titillating and uplifting picture of the 21st century working artist: entrepreneurs who can tap into the queer potential of a democratized online world to display their work, interact with fans and markets, and connect to each other outside the tyranny of galleries who must cater to the über rich.
“The show is a bit of a hodgepodge,” Cessna says, “painting, photography, illustration, video, installation, performance, sculpture, embroidery and needlepoint, everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.” Furthermore, there seems to be no prevailing similitude between how the artists in the show use social media; their various relationships to it are as different from each other as their work is. This broad spectrum of relationality underscores how the social media experience has changed the art-making, not just the art-promoting, game: while most of the artists have utilized various online platforms to build their brands, show their work, and find markets that say “yes” in a world of galleries saying “no,” some of them have gone so far as to incorporate a consciousness of social media into their actual creative process. Take Ben Copperwheat, whose “Divas” series featuring depictions of Madonna, Diana Ross, Joan Rivers, and BritCunt Margaret Thatcher is on display in the show, and who embraces the use of Instagram so thoroughly that “the nature of the square format has led me to create my compositions to work within the space to maximum effect.”
The means of distribution is shaping the work at the site of its production. In reading the artists’ statements it’s clear that Cessna has gathered creators whose relationships to social media aren’t all peaches and glitter; plenty of the artists speak of it with annoyance, or ambivalence, or an admission that the relationship has changed over time. Artist Chick Byrne captures a kind of generational ennui, remarking that “social media had its birth for me around the time I turned 12. AIM and chat rooms were it, and everybody was typing…. Now that I have spent more than half my life on social media, the appeal has mostly faded. My online presence is minimal and my eagerness to use it just as low.”
With a mix of swooning nostalgia and electrified conviction, Walt harkened back to the days of the Early 1980s East Village art scene, stitching that moment to the present with common threads of a “do-it-yourself aesthetic and punk ethos,” as well as a seismic shift in the economic and practical aspects of how and where art gets consumed. Today it’s tumblr feeds and Facebook walls, in 1982 it was subway cars and bathroom stalls. It was a time when the prevailing gallery system was being challenged by radical means of dissemination, as well as artists who were determined to subvert the calcification of the “proper” art world. Many of these artists were queer, and their ability to think outside the box was a result of lives that had been lived in society’s margins. Walt looks for this unabashed ferocity in queer artists today, dismissing those who put “less of their penis online and more of their commerce,” — those who might sublimate authentic queer radicalism for the kind of bourgeois self-consciousness that can sometimes emerge in the wake of increasing online success. Cessna has no patience for artists who “look correct but have no politics,” especially in an age when the problematic side of social media can mean that “hitting the like button excuses you from having to think about it at all.”
With its focus on queer methods of resistance and conscious art-making for a new age, “Interface” could not have a more appropriate home than the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Founded like a giant “fuck you” to death during the darkest days of AIDS, a time when gay businesses and galleries faced extinction as gay corpses mounted with no end in sight, Leslie Lohman has been serving queer resistance since day one. They own their space (as well as the 7,000 sf of space next to them which they’re about to take over), and in 2011 they made the critical jump from a gallery to a fully accredited museum — the strategic importance of which should not be missed: as a museum with an endowment, rather than a gallery dependent on sales (which must always be sky-high to satisfy the vice grip of ever-rising SoHo rents), the Leslie Lohman can perform a critical function in our community, allowing their rotating guest curators to build shows that don’t need blue-chip sales, shows that can focus instead on queer artists who deserve to be seen but haven’t yet received the powerful benevolence of exposure in prestigious galleries. Thus, Walt Cessna can fill his show with the artists who he knows to have politics as rigorous as their aesthetics, without giving a shit as to whether or not they can command million dollar price tags.
Walt talked passionately about how the Leslie Lohman is not known enough by the young and the hip of the NYC queer art world, and his hopes that this show can help enlighten that particular crowd to the vital role the museum can play in furthering the kinds of democratization and destratification that social media platforms have already begun for queer artists. The museum can promote those who might be stuck in what Walt called “a kind of online purgatory, where they’re known as an Internet celebrity, but they’re not in the galleries yet. Here, the fans get the chance to physically view the artists’ work, and something happens in that space between the viewer and the work that can’t happen online.”
Below is a preview of what you’ll see at the show:
‘Interface: Queer artists forming communities through social media’ is on view from May 15-Aug 2, 2015 at Leslie-Lohman Museum, 26 Wooster St. NY, NY.
Zanele Muholi calls herself a visual activist. Her photography, video and instillation exhibit, Isibonelo/Evidence, the first major museum show of it’s magnitude in the United States or elsewhere, powerfully and undeniably explores, celebrates and promotes visibility for the black, lesbian and transgender communities of South Africa. Patrick, Abi and I descended on the show’s opening day, to interview and photograph Zanele for an in-depth profile. She proved to be a razor sharp tour de force as she lead us step-by-step through the show, so generous with her time and spirit, extremely knowledgeable about the LGBTQI history of South Africa and it’s context in the global community. The first thing she said to break the ice when we met was,“You’re so gay!” Loved it. Best known for her striking series of black and white portraits of black lesbians and trans men called “Faces + Phases” (shown in it’s entirety in print and slide show format), it’s a series “which uses firsthand accounts to speak to the experience of living in a country that constitutionally protects the rights of LGBTQI people but often fails to defend them from targeted violence.” Hence the wall of copy adjacent to the portraits that tracks the incessant hate crimes that transpired against the LGBTQI community. On a more celebratory note, the next room houses a series of colorful and joyous images of gay and lesbian weddings from Zanele’s inner circle in addition to a video of the artist making love to her lover, totally out of focus, but with the soundtrack totally intact. This exhibition is housed just one floor below Kehinde Wiley’s retrospective “A New Republic” and across the hall from Basquiat’s “The Unknown Notebooks.” It could not be in better company nor provide a more poignant environment for such revolutionary and important work.
I started “going out” — but OUT when I was 16 was in 1979 when the blood ran thick and cold in the streets of the Meatpacking district and you didn’t want to linger on a steamy summer day, the stench would gag you. But, oh the nights, any season, were truly magical, all the most exciting bars and clubs were there, something for everyone: The Anvil, The Mineshaft, The Lure and even a place I dared to go in called Hellfire. I hadn’t thought about those places in ages until I happened upon this extraordinary show of black and white documentary photographs of the era called, “A Buried Past, Forgotten Stories: The Sexual Underground of the Meatpacking District before Gentrification — The Photographs of Efrain John Gonzalez,” (now on view at the visionary bookstore, gallery and performance space BGSQD in the LGBT Center) I found a succinct quote about Efrain that might clue you into the aesthetic push and content of his photographs: “An internationally published photographer who for the past 30 years has been seeking real life images that tells a story of people finding the paths to their souls, finding their bliss with piercing, branding, cuttings, tattoos, implants, leather and a whole lot of radical sex and sexuality.”
You can’t help but feel a bit like a voyeur peering at these intimate images of the meatpacking district, the streets, the clubs and all the crazy kinky sex people were having in them. Be sure to map out some time for your visit because the bookstore and its contents also need close scrutiny. And if for some crazy reason you haven’t gotten your hands on issue #2 of GAYLETTER, no worries, they have one there for you. If you love the show and your curiosity is piqued, come back on May 20th at 6:00PM, Efrain is giving a talk and a slideshow covering 40 years of his work.
FREE, WED-SUN 1:00PM-7:00PM, BGSQD 208 W. 13th St. room 210, NY, NY.
Today the new incarnation of the Whitney Museum of American Art opens downtown to the public, in a Renzo Piano designed building on Gansevoort st. The opening brings one of the city’s major art institutions downtown, into a neighborhood thoroughly changed from a time when the blood of slaughtered meat ran through its cobblestoned streets. The museum’s inaugural exhibition, “America is Hard to See,” follows a roughly chronological path through American history, with works entirely drawn from the Whitney’s permanent collection. The building is clearly feeling itself, as works by Donald Moffett, Claes Oldenburg, and Félix González-Torres, as well as a temporary exhibition on the 5th floor terrace by Mary Heilmann, seem to bask in the new space. I found one of the most powerful sections to be the chapter titled “Fighting with All Our Might,” which included a print by Jose Clemente Orozco and a drawing by Paul Cadmus, both decrying violence against black Americans in the 1930s. In an exhibition centered around American identity, their works stood out as terrifyingly relevant today.
A new exhibition featuring the work of young artists and academics of color from across the globe
Photographer Elliott Jerome Brown likes sex and public spaces. This fascination is on display in his editorial, “Meet Me At The Toilets,” inside Issue II of GAYLETTER, and it’s also how Elliot first collaborated with Iranian-American artist Ashley Rahimi Syed: as freshman at NYU Tisch, Syed made a video based on Elliott’s project exploring “The Ramble,” Central Park‘s once-legendary gay hookup spot (from a time when anonymous sex took place in the woods, without phones. Grindr meets Shakespearean pastoral comedy).
Elliot and Ashley are now the Editors-in-Chief of a new online magazine, “Young Colored & Angry,” which “exclusively features the work of young artists and academics of color from across the globe.” The provocatively named magazine goes live April 25th, and the gallery show Elliott andAshley have co-curated to launch it looks as powerful as the title.
From 4:00PM to 6:00PM, Palestinian artist Anas Hamra will Skype in from Gaza to discuss his video installation. Towards the end of the night, Sound artist Dyani Douze and rapper The Quazzy Faffle Show will perform their commissioned piece, “an experimental Lullaby for the mind affected by racial inequality in America.” Throughout the evening the work of Victoria Elle, Rindon Johnson, Daryl Oh and many notable others will be shared in honor of the new magazine.
Young Colored & Angry aims to help create “more spaces where people of color are the dominant voices and the executives of their own work,” Elliott says. In imagining the magazine, “We knew what we wanted based on what we weren’t seeing.” One of the creators’ prime goals for their charged content is “making the discussion aesthetic and manageable — not dumbed down, but creating points of entry…like fashion magazines, which people are drawn to and want to pick up.” “Even though the project deals with obstructions to our livelihoods,” Elliott says, Young Colored & Angry is “a celebration of what we can do. We want people to leave feeling inspired.” Check out this celebration, it looks as vital as its title promises.
“Young Colored & Angry,” is happening on Saturday, April 25th, from 12:00PM-10:00PM, 35 Meadow St. Brooklyn, NY.
We are officially fans of the artist Martin Gutierrez, we wrote up his first show last year at Ryan Lee gallery in NYC. It was a gender bending exhibition that included photography, film and performance art. We now recommend you to go to his second show, on view at the same gallery. This mixed media exhibition features “music videos, a site-specific installation, and two new series of photographs…” The large colorful and stylized photographs can easily fit into the pages of a high fashion magazine, they show a variety of characters (mannequins and the artist himself).
“Gutierrez continues to investigate identity, both personal and collective, through the transformation of physical space and self. Interested in the fluidity of relationships and the role of genders within each, he employs mannequins as his counterparts to explore the diverse narratives of intimacy.” He incorporates a variety of materials into his work, such as “plastic leis, table skirts, vinyl, and tape, transforming them into authentic sets, accessories, and costumes that reference iconic films and people, including Milla Jovovich in Jean Paul Gaultier for The Fifth Element, Showgirls, and Brigitte Bardot.” Gutierrez is a very versatile artist, not sure if he’s sexually too, but he’s able to do hair and make-up, costume, set design as well as lighting, directing and photography. Werk!
FREE, 10:00AM–6:00PM, RYAN LEE GALLERY, 527 W. 26TH ST. NY, NY.
Mossy and I went to see the Brooklyn Museum’s new exhibition last week — Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks — the exhibition, as its title implies, focuses on a relatively unknown aspect of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work. It features 160 pages from a series of notebooks the artist created that reveal a subtler and more nuanced side of his work than the paintings most of us are familiar with. They’re filled with sketches, fragments of poetry, and even the phone numbers of boys and girls you can’t help but wonder if he ever called. The exhibition also displays larger works on paper and paintings, which are filled with text that often shows up in the notebooks. The notebooks are exciting because they show a sparer, more minimal side of Basquiat that is still evocative of his particular view of city life and American culture. Kehinde Wiley’s extravagant retrospective is also currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, so you really have no excuse to not hop on the 2 or 3 train and head on over.
Barry Marré's first photo book
Barry Marré’s latest photo book, The Last Boys, is sensual; his portraits are just as much about the beautiful men as they are the shadows draped across their torsos, the colors of the wall, or the undies pooling on their thighs. It is not simply an exploration of Marré’s subjects, but of the relationship between photographer and model, atmosphere and objective.
While the handsomeness of his work is not easily overlooked, Marré’s dedication to the tensions between rawness and composure, strength and vulnerability, hints at a story behind each image. “Letting go is a striking motto for me. Exactly in those moments in between the postures my best images arise.”
But even if you’re not in it for the more subtle narratives, the images — as well as the boys — are simply stunning. Admire the light on his clavicle, or the green of his eyes, or just the texture of his foreskin, either way The Last Boys will leave you wanting more.
Here's a sneak peak from the exhibition
I had this girlfriend once, I’m sure you know the type, you’d make plans with her and if something better came up she’d ditch you and take the better offer. Well, I’m not that kind of girl, BUT, I will say I was all set to write about Sebastião Salgado’s opening this Thursday when I got a last minute email from ClampArt about a Luke Smalley - Retrospective and had to write about it instead (sorry Sebastião). Luke died suddenly at the age of 53 but left behind 3 distinct bodies of photography this exhibition addresses titled Gymnasium, Exercise at Home and Sunday Drive. Once a model and personal trainer, Luke graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in sports médecine — a propos for the development of his minimalistic yet graphic athletic, aesthetic sensibility.
His first series, Gymnasium, took 15 years to hone and then Luke moved on to his foray into color with his second body of work titled Exercise at Home, that followed Gymnasium “in it’s themes of adolescent growing pains acted out under the guise of earnest athleticism.” Oh, OK ,the images are so homoerotic yet transcend this category into a whole other territory of refined artistry. I got so excited when the gallery forwarded three images, one from each body of work, I could barely write. Take the time to attend the opening (6-8PM) and if it’s not possible because something better came up make sure you see this show before it closes on May 9th.
All images courtesy of ClampArt, NYC.
The opening reception is on April 2, from 6:00PM-8:00PM, at ClampArt, 531 West 25st. NY, NY.