In Irreverent: A Celebration of Censorship, opening next month at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York, all of the art has previously been censored from major museums.
MIAMI BEACH — “There’s a lot of product going on here,” I heard a woman say into her cell phone at the mega-art fair Art Basel Miami Beach 2014. Indeed, $3 billion worth of art is being offered for sale this year, according to the event’s organizers.
What is included in the field of a work of art? The medium may be painting or performance, the subject matter may be landscapes or the death of a lover, and the aesthetics may come from a particular tradition or vein of art. But beyond that, when we discuss a work of art, what else can or should be included in that conversation?
Many people know that David Wojnarowicz was an excellent artist, but fewer probably know that he was also an excellent writer. 7 Miles a Second, originally put out by DC Comics in 1996 and recently republished by Fantagraphics Books, is a memoir comprised of personal stories mixed with dreams, hallucinatory images, and social commentary.
Today’s New York art world is painfully nostalgic for the 1980s — a time when rent in the East Village could be paid on tips, syringes littered the streets, and social forces challenged artists to create astounding works. Creativity crackled in the air, as did the impending trauma and transformation of the near future. Social spaces existed before social media supplanted them. It was a time — “post-disco, pre-house,” according to performance artist Jack Waters — when you could both dance and talk in clubs, and those clubs weren’t just filled with $12 cocktails and bridge-and-tunnel riffraff, but exciting creators building a community.
Holding a sign that reads “I am your worst fear, I am your best fantasy,” a photograph of a proud and defiant woman at a gay liberation march in the 1970s opens Phaidon’s newly published Art & Queer Culture, illustrating the dual visions of queer identity by the field of art history.
Curated by Scott Hug, B-Out at Andrew Edlin Gallery, weaves together over 100 artists into an imaginative installation that illustrates a partial and subjective history of what it means to create outside the norm.
From artist David Wojnarowicz’s glasses to advertisements for the Pyramid Club in the zine the East Village Eye, signs from Bronx nonprofit Fashion Moda to flyers advertising performances by punk and No Wave legends Richard Hell, Lydia Lunch and Patti Smith, the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University is no ordinary library. Fales holds the Downtown Collection, an archive of art, books, photographs, videos, objects, journals and other materials from the New York City downtown scene’s iconic figures and art spaces.
I feel naïve to have thought that art offered one of the only scared spaces to be freely expressive. Two weeks ago, I wrote a post that attempted to diplomatically depict the controversial saga that has unfolded over artist Brett Murray’s “The Spear”, a Communist propaganda style portrayal of South African president Jacob Zuma with his penis hanging out from his zipper.
While at The Piers: Art and Sex along the New York Waterfront at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, one question kept popping up in my mind: What is with this obsessive nostalgia for the decaying, destroyed and often depressing New York of the past, particularly as connected to the emerging gay subculture and downtown art scene of the 1970s and ’80s?
In the exhibition Canceled: Alternative Manifestations and Productive Failures at the Center for Book Arts, the documents, language and narrative of controversy, censorship and failure become a new form of work to consider.
While at the landmark exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the Brooklyn Museum, I realized I had to start my review with a statement that will look simple and quite possibly stupid: Hide/Seek is more than David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire In My Belly.”