featured gallery for April 2019

Haunted and Whole: Expanded

Preserving queer history presents a number of challenges because, like many histories that exist counter to the heteronormative, colonial, Euro-centric stories we are told, queer history is often obscured and not readily organized and cataloged. For centuries, queer visibility has been severely limited, due to both self-censorship and societal pressure. While the number of outwardly open politicians, cultural figures, and artists within the United States began to increase in the 1950s, and influxed dramatically during 1960s and 1970s, the loss associated with the earliest stages of the AIDS epidemic significantly impacted these generations of pioneering voices.

Many subcultures and marginalized groups that operate outside the mainstream narrative are able to rely on steady forms of tradition that are passed down through family structures and homogenized communities. However, queer communities, which inherently resist these modes of family structure and homogeneity, must rely on disparate individuals and real-time archiving in order to preserve their stories. Archives like NYU’s Fales Library, Visual AIDS, and individuals such as Sur Rodney (Sur) and many others, play an important role in making sure this history is accessible and able to be revisited and recovered, as well as continuously cataloged.

For this month’s web gallery, Haunted and Whole: Expanded, I am expanding on my Master’s thesis, which looks at a group of living artists who have been directly influenced by late queer artists that were active in the ’70s and ’80s. Both projects ask: How might revealing these linkages between the living and the dead begin to establish a type of queer ancestry? For this expanded version of my thesis, I am bringing together artists within the Visual AIDS Artist+ Registry and the Archive Project that have made a significant impact on future generations of artists through aesthetic innovations, writing and criticism, mentorship, or by establishing organizations that support queer artists, many of which are still active today.

Images 1-2: Bern Boyle (1951-1992) was an artist, curator, and entrepreneur. In 1972, at the age of twenty-one, he founded Giovanni’s Room Bookstore, the nations oldest LGBTQ bookstore. In 1977, at the age of twenty-six, Boyle founded FRAMELINE, now known as San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival. Marlon Riggs’ seminal film, Tongues Untied, was first shown and distributed by FRAMELINE. Both organizations support queer artists in various ways including funding and distribution.

Images 3-4: Kia LaBeija (b. 1990)is a multimedia artist focused on image making, movement, and community building. Her art practice is closely tied to her work as an advocate for underrepresented communities living with HIV. Kia is currently the mother of the famous House of Labeija. House of Lebeija, founded by Crystal Labeija in the early 1970s, creates legitimate space for people of color to perform and walk in Harlem’s ballroom scene and is credited with fostering the earliest stages of voguing.

Images 5-7: Feliz Partz (1945–1994) was a founding member of Canadian artist-activist group General Idea. While lauded for their contributions to the discourse around HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s and 1990s, General Idea also had a significant impact within Canada’s art scene. For example, their publication FILE Megazine (1972-1989), connected the growing communities of artists and artist-run spaces in Canada.

Images 8-10: Jimmy DeSana (1949-1990) was a photographer and key figure in the underground art scenes of New York in the 1970s and 1980s. His portraits of Yoko Ono, Kenneth Anger, William Burroughs, and others center DeSana within many overlapping scenes across generations. His distinct style of photography, which employs harsh contrasting colors and genderqueer bodies, can be seen in high-fashion magazines today. DeSana was also generous with his craft. Prominent contemporary artist Laurie Simmons considers DeSana both a friend and mentor and credits DeSana with teaching her how to develop her film. In this way, DeSana’s work lives on in every photograph Simmons makes.

Images 11-12: Luis Carle (b. 1962) is an artist and photographer whose work can be seen in galleries, museums, and the commercial sector in advertisements for Cutty Sark, AT&T, and OBRI. In 1992, Carle founded O.P. Art, Inc, (Organization of Puerto Rican Artists, Inc.). O.P. Art, Inc is still active today and has mounted numerous exhibitions and distributed works by Puerto Rican artists.

Images 13-14: Nicolas Moufarrege (1947–1985) was an artist, critic, and curator. Until recently, Moufarrege’s artworks were largely overlooked, but Visual AIDS DUETS publication and a retrospective survey of his work at Contemporary Art Museum in Houston have catalyzed renewed interest. While his creative practice was largely overlooked, Moufarrege’s writings have been cited as having a major impact on New York’s underground art scenes in the 70s and 80s. His reviews and musings, which appeared in publications such as New York Native, Arts Magazine, Flash Arts, and Artforum, are credited with drawing early attention to galleries such as FUN Gallery, Gracie Mansion, and artists Greer Lankton, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, and David Wojnarowicz.

Image 15-16: Milton Garcia Ninja (b. 1970) is a cartoonist and member of House of Ninja/ LaBeija.

Image 17-18: Shirlene Cooper is an artist engaged in community building. Her Women Empowerment Art Therapy Group is a social practice project, organized in collaboration with Visual AIDS, that uses art and craft-based workshops to empower women living with HIV.