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Why is today's Art more GenderFluid?

Authenticity and self-construction: Arroyo, 2016 Collage Troy Michie’s Arroyo, 2015

Gender fluidity is a term that is used as an identification for people who identify as different genders over time. Since there is possible vagueness to the definition which makes a certain segment of the people denounce the label as insignificant or non-existent.

When we speak of Art specifically, it is a tool that enables the audiences to connect and reconnect with these core identities that make a person into a whole.

Authenticity and self-construction: Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s Darkroom Mirror, 2017 Photograph by Paul Mpagi Sepuya

In some very essential history, a young curator was putting together a New Museum Exhibition on contemporary gay artists. His name is Dan Cameron. He was warned mostly by other gay men that he was committing career suicide. This was in 1982. We can say a significant amount has changed since then but also a lot of progress is still called for.

Authenticity and self-construction: Christina Quarles’s Beautiful Mourning Painting by Christina Quarles

Cameron’s exhibition is said to have been the first institutional one of its kind. The participants he managed to enlist were for the most part just starting out, with relatively little to lose; and even the curator, by his own later admission, pulled his punches. “I found that I, too, was not immune to internalized homophobia, in that I let other people’s fears and paranoia inhibit me,” he says. “I was censoring myself. A kind of eroticism was not possible; nudity was not at all possible; and that lesbians could have sexual, and not just metaphorical, relationships wasn’t possible either.”

Beyond boundaries: early work Cleaning Teeth, Early Evening (10 PM) W11, 1962 Painting by David Hockney

The cultural fault lines have shifted in retrospect, towards a positive light. In the Michelangelo and David Hockney blockbuster shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, last winter, the artists’ gay orientation was highlighted by the curators as a way to further the understanding of their work. Soon thereafter, two edgy queer artists who enjoyed a cult reputation during their lifetimes were finally being given recognition: Peter Hujar, with 143 photographs now on view at the ­Morgan Library & Museum, and his close friend David Wojnarowicz, the subject of a full-scale retrospective that opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art in July.

Beyond boundaries: Frank Benson’s sculpture of Juliana Huxtable, Juliana, 2015 Frank Benson

In an era of marriage equality, homosexual attraction barely raises an eyebrow among museum visitors. Even a bold homoerotic image, such as the large photograph of a man’s naked hairy ass and balls in a welcoming position at Wolfgang Tillmans’s exhibition last year at Tate Modern, fails to provoke. In both the art world and the culture at large, the spotlight has turned away from sexual orientation and desire to focus mainly on gender identity and fluidity.

Friends and muses: David Wojnarowicz’s Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: Saint Sebastian, 1982. Wojnarowicz

“The trans impulse, I think, is profoundly exciting,” says Lawrence Rinder, the director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. “We have reached a stage in our culture where we are open to people choosing their gender.” After the inviolability of the gender dichotomy is undermined, can any convention feel safe? “It is a kind of radical destabilization,” says Johanna Burton, the curator of “Trigger: Gender As a Tool and a Weapon,” a show at the New Museum last winter that surveyed the thorny tangle of gender in contemporary art.


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