At one point during our conversation, curator Jonathan Weinberg speculates that if he were to make a movie about the June 28, 1969, riot at the Stonewall Inn, he’d start it by honouring Judy Garland, whose funeral took place the day before. Garland, who played Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, had a substantial queer following. To describe oneself as being a “friend of Dorothy” during the mid 20th century, a clandestine time for LGBTQ+ people, was a coded way of conveying one’s gayness. This historical detail alludes to the particularly discreet kinds of world-making queer people were engaged in before the watershed moment that was Stonewall. The day after “Dorothy” was buried, her “friends” revolted.
Art After Stonewall: 1969–1989, curated by Weinberg with the Columbus Museum of Art, has moved from New York City (where it premiered this spring) to Miami, where it will headline Art Basel Miami. The show explores queer visual culture after Stonewall, when a new era was taking shape that was vastly different from the secret culture that had preceded it.
In the introduction to the printed catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Weinberg writes “in the pre-Stonewall period, ‘coming out’ did not mean announcing one’s homosexuality to straight people, but participating for the first time in communal gay life.” Going through the impressive archive of Art After Stonewall, one gets the sense that these artists, and this show, are introducing queer culture to the rest of the world in a palpable and exciting way. Weinberg credits the Columbus team for this. With them, and with the Frost Art Museum in Miami, “you don’t see a lot of the hierarchical nonsense you see at other galleries.” The galleries involved allowed Weinberg to bring in a wide array of artists, thereby supporting his goal of assembling as detailed and rich an archive of works as possible.
Organized around seven themes, spanning two decades, and featuring artists from a wide range of stylistic and personal backgrounds, Art After Stonewall eschews a narrow focus, in favour of a show that shines a light on underrepresented artists. Says Weinberg: “I think a lot about artists who don’t get their due or die young or old and nobody knows about their work. Right from the beginning, I wanted to focus on artists who weren’t getting the attention they deserved in the art world.” Space does not allow a list of all the artists, but Weinberg seemed especially pleased about his inclusion of Michela Griffo, Vaginal Davis, Tee A. Corinne, and Laura Aguilar, alongside more well-known queer artists Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, and David Wojnarowicz.
Exciting for Weinberg is the fact that the Frost Art Museum will present the entire exhibition in the same space. In New York, AAS was split between the Grey Art Gallery and the Leslie-Lohman Museum. “It wasn’t our ideal to split it in two,” reflects Weinberg, who was critical of the way in which this caused people to conceptualize the show as being in two parts. In New York, Weinberg divided the show chronologically, but he noted, “There are so many themes that overlap” between the seventies and the eighties. Having the show exhibited at two galleries also created the option for people to only see half the show. At the Frost, Art After Stonewall will be unified.
In so many ways, New York City was the wellspring for queer visual culture. Just as Dorothy escapes to the Emerald City, queer communities flocked to New York (“Emerald City is New York City,” observes Weinberg). Although Miami has its own queer history, it will be interesting for it to host these works away from New York and the Stonewall Inn.
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