Like the Spice is pleased to present After Everything: Gay Directions in New Art an exhibition examining the art of gay artists in the post-everything society. Curated by Dylan Peet, the show features a diverse selection of works by eight artists: Joseph Heidecker, Clarke Jackson, Sean M. Johnson, Darren Lee Miller, Ian O’Phelan, Jesse Finley Reed, Christopher Schulz and Steed Taylor.
A queer sensibility has run through much of contemporary art since the end of abstract expressionism. Gay artists such as Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring and John Waters have had major effects on the art and pop-cultural landscape. While their art is hardly restricted to gay subject matter, a queer sensibility sits at the bedrock of their production. From pop’s cool fabulousness to John Waters’ polymorphically perverse outsider’s take on everything to artists coping with the massive scope of the AIDS crisis, gay issues have been at the center of art history since the fifties.
Recently there is a seismic shift in what it means to be gay. Factors driving this change are the internet’s inherent capacity for social networking and increasing visibility, legal protections and acceptance of gay men. The era of a hermetically sealed gay culture, hiding in the closet or in gay bars is over. Now gay men interact with a much broader range of society and in a greatly expanded context, they also interact with men from across the world online. There is a new generation of gay men who came out at 16, took their boyfriends to the prom without hassle and hardly see the point of going to a gay bar. This exhibition examines some of the ways artists are expressing, reacting to and using these new conditions and remembering the old ones in their work.
Joseph Heidecker’s manipulated busts and photographs explore decoration, masks, identity and how we present ourselves as image. Clarke Jackson explores obsession, voyeurism and isolation in his digitally modeled narrative series, EXTREME_ankleCAM.com. In his photo-social experiments Sean M. Johnson creates situations where men interact in innocently sexualized exchanges recalling childhood games. Darren Lee Miller’s photographs explore homosocial power dynamics in familiar scenarios. Ian O’Phelan’s portraits of men rest squarely between irony, sentimentality and romance. Through makeup and lighting Jesse Finley Reed transforms the utilitarian spaces and average bodies in his photographs into sites of allegory and the uncanny. Pinups Magazine, Christopher Schulz’s conceptual erotic periodical combines vintage porn aesthetics and body politics with a post-bear twist. In his series Road Tattoos, Steed Taylor transforms the commemoration, communication and ritual associated with tattoos into moving public art actions.