Commemorating 50 years since the Stonewall riots that helped ignite the modern gay rights movement, NYU’s Grey Art Gallery is now showing “Art After Stonewall: 1969-1989,” which opened with a public reception on April 23.
Curated by Jonathan Weinberg, Tyler Cann and Drew Sawyer, the show is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art. The exhibit is being shown in two halves, the first of which opened to the public on April 24 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in SoHo. The show includes works from high-profile queer artists like Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol, as well as less well-known but still influential artists like Catherine Opie and Greer Lankton.
“It’s really great to see the variety of works they have here,” 24-year-old Kelso Kennedy, a staff member at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, said. “Seeing the difference between the two exhibits is so refreshing as well as how much color this exhibit has and how much life there is in a community that has experienced so much loss and death. It’s really inspiring, especially for somebody my age.”
Comprised of media as varied as video, painting, photography, screen prints and photocopies, the versatility of “Art After Stonewall: 1969-1989” embodies the contrasting times the pieces originate from. The exhibit includes over 200 works of art, many of which address the AIDS crisis and confront the Reagan Administration for failing to acknowledge it.
Highly political in nature, many of the pieces are provocative and foreshadow the era of sexual liberation in the arts that took off in the mid-’90s.
“Today I was wondering how it would be placed among the other artists and I think I’m in really good company,” artist Lenore Chinn said.
Her painting “Deja Vu,” a 1986 work based on a photo her friend took of the two of them, is featured in the exhibit.
“It was done in a Hollywood apartment [of] a friend of mine who passed away from AIDS many years ago,” Chinn said. “And the guy who is behind the camera, he also passed away from AIDS. He took a picture of this image of us in a mirror, and I thought it was so strong that I decided to create this acrylic on canvas from the photo.”
In attendance at the reception were also some of the subjects of the pieces themselves.
“Hi, I’m Tabboo! T-A-B-B-O-O exclamation point,” said the subject of “George in the Water,” a black and white semi-nude portrait photographed by David Armstrong. “I am thrilled beyond words to be included in this historic show. […] It’s beautiful. I have a beautiful portrait and a photograph of me from when I was 20. I’m 60 now. I’m one of the survivors, and I’m still here.”
The reception concluded with performances of excerpts from “The Stonewall Operas,” four 30-minute operas inspired by the Stonewall riots that were written and composed by alumni of the Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program. The pieces will be performed in full at the Tisch Shubert Theatre on May 18 and at the Stonewall Inn on May 19.
A highly collaborative effort, the performances were designed by students of the Tisch Department of Dance, performed by singers from American Opera Projects and directed by students of The New School.
“Outside” and “Nightlife” are based on the day of the raid of The Stonewall Inn and “Pomada Club” follows two different stories that play out in present-day Kiev and New York City, while “The Community” takes place 400 years in the future.
As with the operas, the pieces that make up the exhibit as a whole are very different in form and content, but still come together to further the legacy of Stonewall through their confrontation of gender and sexual norms. The exhibit provides a platform to many unsung artists who furthered the gay rights movement through their art, allowing viewers to pay tribute to the many creators and activists who came before them.
‘‘Art After Stonewall: 1969-1989” is on view at the Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Square South, until July 20 and at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster St., until July 21.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 29, 2019, print edition. Email Aashna Agarwal at [email protected]