THE GALLERY Hide/Seek exhibit explores gender and sexuality

Andy Warhol from Getty Images archive.

Sexuality, love, New York, objectified bodies, AIDs, intimacy, and identity. These are some of the themes explored in Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, the first major museum exhibit exploring homosexuality and concepts of gender in modern American art.

The show features diverse media such as paintings, photographs, sculptures and video.

I attended this exhibit a couple of weeks ago and was quite impressed. It’s an extensive collection featuring portraits of or by all your favorite superstartists, like Annie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol, Alfred Stieglitz, David Hockney, Ellen DeGeneres, Georgia O’Keefe, George Bellows, Jess Collins, Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and many more. Yes, the curator was name dropping.

The New York Times praised the exhibit, but also said, “Like many events that are first of their kind, it feels both overdue and a little behind the times.” It is astonishing an exhibition like this has only now, in 2011, been established. Then again, it was quite astonishing that New York only now, in 2011, made same sex legal. But as they say, better late than never.

Have pen and paper ready, because you will want to write down and Google some of the subjects in the photographs and learn of their influence in the gay community. It’s quite the history lesson. It was incredible to see portraits of literary trailblazers like Walt Whitman, Dejuna Barnes, Janet Flanner and Susan Sontag.

I’m currently reading Just Kids, the Patti Smith/Robert Mapplethorpe biography so it was exciting to see photographs so close up. It’s interesting to see the connection and influences between the artists as well.

One of my favorites, which I had previously seen before is Nan Goldin’s portrait of drag queens Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, 1991. The women/men, look like they’re going home exhausted after a wild night out, yet they still look so beautiful in the morning. If you’ve ever been to New York, you know it captures a very familiar moment whether you’re a drag queen or not.

The exhibit can also be quite intense. I had previously seen the very powerful image by Therese Frare of AIDs activist David Kirby in London a year ago and it’s still just as sad and eerie to see again. The blown up image displays a bed-ridden Kirby, sick and skeleton-like in his last days before dying.

Maybe grab some tissues too. Either way, go see Andy Warhol in drag before it moves to the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington State.

Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
November 18, 2011 – February 4, 2012
Brooklyn Museum
4th Floor
200 Eastern Parkway

 – JD

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