Art After Stonewall: 1969-1989 @Leslie-Lohman Museum and @Grey Art Gallery (NYU)

JTF (just the facts): A two-venue museum exhibition, comprised of approximately 150 works. Originally organized by Jonathan Weinberg, Tyler Cann, and Drew Sawyer of the Columbus Museum of Art. A catalog of the exhibition has been published by Rizzoli (here).

Photographic works on view at Leslie-Lohman Museum, categorized by the thematic/named sections of the show:

Coming Out

  • John Burton/Mario Dubsky: 1 digital reproduction on vinyl, 1971
  • Peter Hujar: 1 gelatin silver print 1970
  • Cathy Cade: 2 digital prints, 1972
  • Leonard Tong: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970
  • Kay Tobin Lahusen: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970
  • Diana Davies: 1 digital print, 1971
  • Tova Navarra: 1 gelatin silver print, 1971
  • Fred McDarrah: 1 gelatin silver print, 1969
  • Sunil Gupta: 1 gelatin silver print, 1976
  • JEB (John E. Biren): 1 gelatin silver print, 1979, 1 c-print, 1975
  • Bettye Lane: 1 gelatin silver print, 1971
  • Anthony Friedkin: 1 gelatin silver print 1972, 1 maquette in vitrine, 1973
  • Donna Gottschalk: 1 gelatin silver print, 1973
  • Kay Tobin Lahusen: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970
  • Ellen Shumsky: 1 digital print, 1970
  • Crawford Balton: 1 gelatin silver print, 1977

Sexual Outlaws

  • Ellen Shumsky: 1 digital print, 1970
  • Bettye Lane: 1 gelatin silver print, 1973
  • Robert Morris: 1 poster, 1974
  • Robert Mapplethorpe: 1 gelatin silver print, 1978
  • Catherine Opie: 1 inkjet print, 1987
  • Morgan Gwenwald: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1981, 1984
  • JEB (John E. Biren): 2 gelatin silver prints, 1980
  • Mary Beth Edelson: 1 cut gelatin silver print, 1976
  • Honey Lee Cottrell: 1 gelatin silver print, 1981
  • E.K. Walker: 2 digital prints, 1977
  • Hal Fischer: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1977

Gender Play

  • Rob Hugh Rosen: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970
  • Fayette Hauser: 1 gelatin silver print, 1971
  • Peter Hujar: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1971, 1984
  • Diane Arbus: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970
  • Vito Acconci: 1 video, 1971
  • Adrian Piper: 1 video, 1973

Uses of the Erotic

  • JEB (John E. Biren): 1 gelatin silver print, 1980
  • Tee A. Corinne: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1979, 1982
  • Barbara Hammer: 1 video, 1974
  • Arthur Tress: 1 gelatin silver print, 1979
  • Honey Lee Cottrell: 1 gelatin silver print, 1985
  • Robert Mapplethorpe: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1978, 1982, 1 portfolio, 1978, 1 newspaper, 1970
  • Gordon Matta-Clark: 2 cibachrome prints, 1975
  • Frank Hallam: 2 digital prints, 1979, 1982
  • Shelly Seccombe: 1 digital print, 1978
  • Alvin Baltrop: 1 gelatin silver print, n.d.
  • E.K. Walker: 1 poster, 1977
  • Cathy Cade: 1 gelatin silver print, 1979

Photographic works on view at Grey Art Gallery:

Things Are Queer

  • Duane Michals: 1 set of 9 gelatin silver prints with hand applied text, 1973
  • Diana Davies: 2 digital prints, 1969, 1970
  • Rink Foto: 1 gelatin silver print, 1979
  • Jack Smith: 1 collage, 1965-1981
  • Greg Day: 1 digital print, 1975
  • Peter Hujar: 1 gelatin silver print, 1976
  • Jimmy DeSana: 1 gelatin silver print, 1978
  • Dona Ann McAdams: 7 gelatin silver prints, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989
  • Leonard Fink: 1 gelatin silver print, 1979
  • David Wojnarowicz: 1 gelatin silver print, 1978-1979
  • Andreas Sterzing: 1 c-print, 1987/1988
  • Tseng Kwong Chi: 1 gelatin silver print, 1983, 2 c-prints, 1985
  • Annie Leibovitz: 1 archival pigment print, 1986
  • Jack Pierson: 1 Ektacolor print, 1990
  • Gail Thacker: 1 Polaroid print, 1989
  • David Armstrong: 1 gelatin silver print, 1983
  • Mark Morrisroe: 1 c-print with fiber tipped pen, 1980
  • Nan Goldin: 1 archival pigment print, 1982

AIDS and Activism

  • Ann Patricia Meredith: 1 gelatin silver print, 1987
  • Lola Flash: 1 dye infused pigment print, 1987

We’re Here!

  • Lyle Ashton Harris: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1987-1988
  • David Wojnarowicz: 1 gelatin silver print, 1990-1991
  • Stanley Stellar: 1 c-print, 1976
  • Leon Mostovoy: 1 gelatin silver print, 1987-1988
  • Del LaGrace Volcano: 1 silver bromide print, 1982
  • Scott Burton: 1 set of 3 gelatin silver prints, 1980
  • Tseng Kwong Chi: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1979/1985
  • Alvin Baltrop: 1 gelatin silver print, 1975-1986
  • Catherine Opie: 1 inkjet print, 1990
  • Christopher Makos: 1 gelatin silver print, 1981
  • Deborah Bright: 1 gelatin silver print, 1990
  • David Armstrong: 1 gelatin silver print, 1977
  • Jack Shear: 1 gelatin silver print, n.d.
  • Laura Aguilar: 1 gelatin silver print, 1989
  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders: 1 chromogenic print, 1985
  • Robert Mapplethorpe: 1 gelatin silver print, 1982, 1 poster 1979
  • Morgan Gwenwald: 1 digital print, 1984
  • Shari Diamond: 1 gelatin silver print, 1985
  • Ann Patricia Meredith: 1 gelatin silver print, 1986
  • Kaucyila Brooke: 1 set of 9 photo montages, 1989

(Installation shots from both locations below.)

Comments/Context: The fiftieth anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots has provided a timely opportunity to measure and assess the social and cultural distance that we have traveled in the last half century. Often taken as the flash point beginning of the LGBTQ liberation movement in the United States, the police raid on the gay bar on Christopher Street in New York and the subsequent confrontations that took place in the streets ignited a broader national conversation about gay rights. And as definitions of gender, identity, and sexuality become increasingly fluid and inclusive, that discussion actively continues today, as there is certainly more work to do.

Many of the memorials, parades, and celebrations that will take place around the anniversary, and more generally this year, will naturally focus on the questions of history, politics, law, and social justice that stand at the center of ongoing movement. This exhibit takes a different approach to probing the layers of the past by looking at the evolution of the art made in the decades after Stonewall.

While chronological studies of art made in the 1970s and 1980s have of course included examples of art from the LGBTQ community, those works often been artistically relegated to a smaller role in a much larger civil rights dialogue, essentially tossed in with feminist, African-American, Latinx, and other arts by marginalized communities in America. What Art After Stonewall does is change that typical axis of thinking, putting LGBTQ art at the center rather than on the periphery. This simple change of perspective is transformative, and the redirection of attention at its scholarly core provides much of the reason why this exhibit feels so fresh.

The show itself is split between two venues, the first part (chronologically) at the Leslie-Lohman Museum and the second part at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. This separation, while managed as best as might be hoped, is still jerky given the physical spaces, the natural integrated flow of the ideas broken into a lurching two step that prevents the essential connections across the years from being seen more clearly. And for those New Yorkers who regularly visit the Leslie-Lohman, and are used to the museum’s consistently excellent deep dives into LGBTQ art, this higher-level summary feels a bit like a tips-of-the-waves sampler of many of the museum’s shows of the past few years.

Photographically, the exhibit features the main names we would expect to find in such a show – Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Boston crowd of Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, and Mark Morrisroe, and other standouts like Catherine Opie, Lyle Ashton Harris, and Tseng Kwong Chi. The critical point is however that these artists are not placed on the outer edge of a straight history, but smack in the middle of a queer one, where their context is defined entirely other LGBTQ artists. This location reminds us that their choices of subject matter, their urgent issues, and their struggles with identity definition were common (if not universal) in the community, even if their contemporaries didn’t end up as famous in the broader art world.

The curators have grouped the images into thematic categories, and many of these sections work extremely well in terms of providing alternate entry points into the material. At Leslie-Lohman, the “Coming Out” section is filled with scenes of authentic, everyday love and affection between gay and lesbian couples, as well as smaller moments of proud public visibility. The “Sexual Outlaws” section explores the conscious redefinition of limits, where behaviors branded as criminal by society at large were artistically accepted and celebrated; Mapplethorpe’s famous bullwhip self-portrait appears here, but in the context of the larger community, the image seems right in line (with a splash of performative confrontation), rather than resolutely shocking. And “Gender Play” pushes on this performative aspect further, bringing together portraits, performance stills, and videos from cross-dressers and gender fluid subjects.

At NYU Grey, the “AIDS and Activism” section is puzzlingly the weakest in the show, at least photographically. While there are plenty of posters, banners, advertisements, and even a huge Keith Haring SAFE SEX painting on view, there are very few photographs that directly address the AIDS crisis. Many searing and poignant images were made of friends, lovers, and even the artists themselves struggling with the disease, so I’m surprised none were included (perhaps they fell after the 1989 cutoff date?) Better is the show’s final section “We’re Here!” which expands the inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community even further and cements a renewed level of self-confidence and acceptance. I was glad to find an image by Laura Aguilar (from her series of portraits of Latina lesbians) included here, happily coexisting with Baltrop, Opie, and many others.

In the end, Art After Stonewall is a master stroke of context. Outsiders are discovered to be insiders, and those thought to be on the periphery are found to be in the center. By changing our frame of reference, the curators have encouraged us to see the patterns and commonalities in the works by LGBTQ artists more clearly (especially those we already know well), and thereby understand and appreciate their interests, concerns, and vantage points with more intention and nuance.

Collector’s POV: Since this is a museum show, there are of course no posted prices, and given the large number of artists/photographers included in the exhibition, we will forego our usual discussion of individual gallery representation relationships and secondary market histories.

Alvin Baltrop, Catherine Opie, David Armstrong, Laura Aguilar, Lyle Ashton Harris, Mark Morrisroe, Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tseng Kwong Chi, Grey Art Gallery (NYU), Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Rizzoli

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