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Posted inArt

Ask Me Any (Gendered) Question

CHICAGO — Gender is a fun game to play — if you know the rules and are willing to break them accordingly. As I was working on a story about a queer art show here in Chicago, I found myself thinking about the show as a space for cruising, as if in a bathhouse. Conveniently, much of the art in this show felt like it invited an opportunity for this sort of sidelong, forlorn or even covert gazing at or upon.

Posted inArt

Transgressive Queer Art, Tinged with Nostalgia

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.

Posted inArt

We Were Not Making Art, We Were at War

At some point, nearly two hours in, Marlene McCarty, one of the members of the AIDS activist group Gran Fury, an affinity group that was part of ACT-UP, reminded those gathered: “We were not making art.” The event was a panel discussion that took place at Columbia University on November 15, organized by Columbia’s School of the Arts, and was intended to draw on some of the themes present in the exhibition that just opened at the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. The panel was comprised of ICA Boston curator Helen Molesworth and four members of the eleven-member collective that was Gran Fury: Avram Finkelstein, Tom Kalin, Marlene McCarty, and Robert Vazquez-Pacheco.

The question that prompted McCarty’s response was one of a handful that arose during the Q&A that followed the presentations by the panel. There was a similar tone to many of the questions that came up, the majority of which were something along the lines of: “How can we do what you did?” In addition to reminding those present that Gran Fury’s intention was never to make art, per se, McCarty added, “We were very brash about the fact that we were making propaganda.”

Posted inArt

Outsider Culture Writ Large

BERKELEY, California — As the grand finale for SFMoMA’s exhibition, Stage Presence, which delved into the theatrical of contemporary art, Rashaad Newsome performed “Shade Compositions” (2005) in Haas Atrium, just inside the museum’s entrance, on October 4. “Shade Compositions” has been an ongoing performance that began with documentation of particular noises and gestures associated with and performed by African-American women. The original performers were entirely African-American women, but Newsome has since expanded his subject matter to cast a different conversation about outsider culture writ large.

Posted inArt

Can We Queer the (Art) World, and Why Should We?

I’m going to start this essay with the conclusion. Why should we be looking for different ways of thinking about and living in the world? Because many of the dominant political social, and intellectual structures that currently underpin our society have proven themselves to be colossally flawed, so we need to begin looking for different ways of doing and thinking about things.