An evening with HIDE/SEEK

Nights like tonight are sort of magical for emerging artists and art lovers like myself. Tonight I joined a handful of other folks at a collector's home for a private presentation of HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, by curators Jonathan Katz and David C. Ward. Katz is an associate professor at the University of Buffalo, where he chairs the visual studies doctoral program. Ward is a historian at the National Portrait Gallery. The show has been in the news ever since right-wing activists threatened the Smithsonian over the exhibition and especially since Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough removed David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly (1987) from the show.

Minor White

Alright, let's get real, we're talking a dozen people on a couch with these two amazing trailblazers in contemporary curatorial and queer academia. We watched as they explained their research, process and thesis behind this amazing show. Then we engaged in a great discourse about issues surrounding museums and institutions, their duties as educators and role models and the surprising reluctancy to address the immense presence of queer art and artists in history (did you know that in a recent museum exhibition Robert Rauschenberg was listed as just "having married," when in reality he divorced a year later and went on to date Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns? When Jonathan Katz brought this up during a museum tour, he was escorted out by security!).
Robert Rauschenberg
HIDE/SEEK is one of the single most controversial exhibitions of our time, surprisingly enough the first time LGBTQ presence in art has ever been addressed head on in the public art arena in America. This is also one of the first controversial cases of art censorship to come around in a long long time. Tonight I learned that next to banking, the art (museum) world is one of the most homophobe and conservative environments in America, most have harshly rejected queer art to protect their sponsorships and endowments from conservative sources. 
Thomas Eakins

(Fun fact: when the curator pulled that stunning Eakins painting (above) out of the crate, the label on the back of the fram read "Seattle's World's Fair, 1962," it was framed and exhibited in Seattle 50 years ago for the World's Fair!)

Kudos to the Tacoma Art Museum for taking a huge risk on this amazing exhibit and bringing it to the Pacific Northwest. This is the ONLY and last stop on the west coast after the National Portrait Gallery and Brooklyn Art Museum for this exhibition, which will go down as one of the most important displays of art in American history. If you don't go see this show then... you're really missing out on something special!! 
The show opens this weekend, click here to check out all the awesome programming around this exhibition! I'm going to be in Portland and San Francisco in the next week, but when I get back I am heading over to the Tacoma Art Museum to view this show and will share more about my thoughts on the show.
 untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA) by Félix González-Torres 
P.S. This piece above blew my mind! Ross was Felix Gonzalez-Torres' partner, who died of AIDS. Ross weighted 160 lbs, and about half that by the time he died. This piece is made up of 160lbs of candy, it represents Ross, it represents his virus, AIDS, his killer. The interesting part though, is that visitors are invited to take a piece of candy and eat it. By doing so you are not only "consuming the virus," you're also contributing to the lessening of the pile and the weight. You are consuming the infected body and also becoming the virus yourself by destroying the integrity of the pile and slowly eating away at it. Much like Catholics do so in communion, you consume the body. There are so many dimensions and aspects to this piece, from the formal aspects of it, to it's endurance and presence in history (will it every disappear?). Can't wait to see it in person!