Archive for March, 2020

Culture Vulture: TOUCHING HISTORY at the Palm Springs Art Museum

March 26, 2020

To quote Alanis Morrissette, isn’t it ironic? When the Palm Springs Art Museum decided to mount the first exhibition on the West Coast commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall gay-liberation rebellion, associate curator David Evans Frantz chose to commission eight contemporary artists to create new work, and the theme he selected was…Touch. That certainly seemed entirely reasonable, unremarkable, or simply admirably out-of-the-box when the show opened last October. It felt that way even when I saw “Touching History: Stonewall 50” Sunday March 8, when museum docent Vinny Stoppia gave a guided tour for members of the local chapter of California Men’s Gathering aficionados.

By the time the museum closed to the public March 17, the show had become a relic of a bygone era, one that has given way to the new era of Touching Nobody.

But let me take you through a few of the high points of the exhibition for me, starting with the vintage poster that seems to have inspired Frantz to adopt the theme of touch for this overview of post-Stonewall gay life. (click on images to enlarge)

3-8 touch one another

3-8 touch poster credits

3-8 touching history artists3-8 touching history manifesto

“Touch is powerful, affirming, and unruly.” I love that!

3-8 kang seung lee

 

I was particularly moved to see these works paying homage to Tseng Kwong Chi, a downtown legend and a colleague of mine when I worked for the Soho Weekely News when I first moved to New York. Kwong Chi produced a number of iconic images, including the photograph of statuesque dancer Bill T. Jones that became a widely beloved poster by Keith Haring (a signed copy of which hangs in my apartment to this day). A number of artists have used the erasure technique (including Christian Holstad) but Kang Seung Lee’s representation-by-absence of Tseng Kwong Chi felt especially poignant to me.

3-8 kang bklyn bridge

3-8 dugan fabbre trans elders

Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabree’s portraits of trans elders are gorgeous.

3-8 sky and mike pic

3-8 sky and mike text

3-8 adult content

The first inkling I got about this show came from reading an article by Jerry Saltz in New York magazine about Robert Andy Coombs, the remarkable young white disabled artist whose work consists largely of beautiful, boldly erotic portraits of the artist interacting affectionately with naked friends. The article suggested that there was an entire show devoted to Coombs at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Actually, there are only two photographs by Coombs in the show but they’re amazing — intense, frank, beautiful.

3-8 coombs blow job

3-8 coombs text

3-8 coombs cuddle on couch

 

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