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Exhibition: Closet To Quarantine: Queer Art Then And Now From September 7, 2021 To November 6, 2021 At Childs Gallery

Closet to Quarantine: Queer Art Then and Now

Press Release:

Closet to Quarantine: Queer Art Then and Now connects past and present artistic expressions of queer experience. The exhibition spans the arc of queer history, from taboo, to revolutionary, to accepted and celebrated, featuring works by contemporary LGBTQ+ artists alongside their historical antecedents.

Childs Gallery, established in 1937, and the longest continually operating fine art gallery on Newbury Street, has been wholly or partially gay-owned since 1969. The gallery has long offered works by LGBTQ+ artists, including Richmond Barthé, Paul Cadmus, and Ben Norris, to name just a few. Alongside its other offerings, Childs Gallery has actively cultivated a focus on queer-interest art within its collection.

Closet to Quarantine: Queer Art Then and Now is inspired by the quarantine-era Instagram account of the gallery’s current owner, Richard Baiano (@artdealerboston). During the Covid-19 quarantine, Baiano posted historical and contemporary art by LGBTQ+ artists under the hashtag #queerartthenandnow as a way to develop a digital community, while also highlighting queer artists throughout history. Discovering artists digitally, through social media, has been an exciting deviation from the gallery’s usual approach. With its low barriers to entry, social media allows artists and audiences to connect more easily, giving access to those who may not otherwise have it, particularly historically marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community.

The current exhibition is an extension of this project, bringing together examples of historical queer art with work by contemporary LGBTQ+ artists, many of whom were discovered via social media and the #queerartthenandnow hashtag. The title Closet to Quarantine refers generally to the arc of queer history, but also to the shared themes of isolation and visibility across this history. The forced confinement of the Covid-19 quarantine has been particularly difficult for some members of the LGBTQ+ community, a group which has long fought for visibility and acceptance. In many ways, the physical and social isolation of this period echoes the isolation of historical queer experience (albeit without the same stigma). Throughout the pandemic, social media has served as an important antidote to this isolation, acting as a vital outlet for connection and creative expression.

Many of the themes expressed by the contemporary artists in this exhibition mirror those found in historical queer art. Queer themes in art can be broadly understood as a progression from taboo, to revolutionary, to acceptance and celebration. For the greater part of the 20th century, homosexuality was still considered taboo. As a result, queer art has been shaped by both the need to conceal references to queer identity, and the desire for increased visibility and acceptance.

This tension between concealment and visibility has long been present in queer art, often by necessity. Photographer George Platt Lynes, famous for his commercial work in fashion magazines, secretly produced a substantial body of nude and homoerotic photography throughout his life. Lynes considered his photographs of male nudes to be his finest work, yet this private body of work was never shown during his lifetime as it was considered taboo at the time. In contrast, contemporary artist Felipe Chavez uses his art practice to explore his own sexuality in a very public way. In his conceptual self-portraits, Chavez uses his own body to explore the male form and its relationship with sexuality and space as a gay man.

One of the most influential queer artists of the 20th century is Paul Cadmus, whose Renaissance-influenced paintings are considered a foundation of queer modernism. Cadmus was one of the first artists to wield an explicit male-on-male gaze in contemporary art and many of his paintings contain coded references to homosexuality and queer experience. In this exhibition, the artist’s highly finished drawing Male Nude NM32, 1967 depicts his longtime partner and muse Jon Anderson with sensual detail. Contemporary artists John MacConnell and Anthony Moore continue to work in this same tradition, depicting their male subjects as suggestively erotic objects of desire. Yet without any overt references to sexuality, it is left to the viewer to make the connection.

In the wake of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the gay liberation movement began to promote increased visibility, encouraging people to “come out” as LGBTQ+, rather than assimilate to societal norms. Many artists likewise became emboldened to make and exhibit art about their sexual identity. These revolutionary works often depict graphic sexual content as an expression of pride - they represent a complete rejection of the taboo of queerness. Examples include the hyper-sexualized homoerotic illustrations of Tom of Finland and Mike Kuchar. Following in this unabashedly homoerotic tradition are contemporary artists Eric Lotzer and Emily Lombardo. Lotzer makes a very conscious attempt to redefine and reclaim the vulgar, exploring the uncomfortable yet attractive aspects of our primal sexual behavior. Lombardo’s work explores queer sex and relationships, often through reinterpretations of historic material, including Goya’s Los Caprichos and Marcantontio Raimondi’s I Modi series. She contributes At Sea to this exhibition – an intimate print depicting two women draped upon each other in a drifting boat.

With greater visibility and acceptance, many contemporary LGBTQ+ artists embrace and celebrate queer identity and sexuality in their work. Andrew Sedgwick Guth’s brightly colored embroidered paintings depict male-identifying figures in settings of intimacy. His goal with these works is to “depict the subjects in ‘pretty’ and ‘soft’ environments. Safe spaces for them to exist and to be beautiful in their own right.” In this same vein, Stuart Sandford, a co-curator of the #queerartthenandnow hashtag, celebrates the powerful and enduring classical ideal of male beauty in his multidisciplinary practice. He explains, “I always wanted to celebrate my sexuality and put the male nude body front and centre in my work. I grew up with negative depictions of LGBTQ life within popular media and thought it was important to depict the opposite - so portraying male intimacy became a natural focus.”

Childs Gallery is a generalist gallery with selected specialties - this exhibition is an ongoing endeavor to create an additional specialty of queer art within the gallery. The list of artists included here barely scratches the surface of the diverse and talented creators in the LGBTQ+ community. As we continue to connect, collaborate, and learn from each other, we intend to expand #queerartthenandnow into new spaces, as there is still so much to learn and so much work to be done. We also acknowledge that there are all sorts of queerness, and that this show comes primarily from the perspective of a cisgender gay man and thus does not presume to represent everyone within the LGBTQ+ community. However, we do see this as a step towards facilitating a community of queer artists and audiences under the historic Childs Gallery umbrella.

A reception for Closet to Quarantine: Queer Art Then and Now will take place on Saturday, September 18th, 4pm - 7pm.

Artists in the exhibition include: 

Hannah Barrett

Richmond Barthé

Robert Bliss

Paul Cadmus

Rick Castro

Felipe Chavez

Opal DeRuvo

Rubén Esparza

Jared French

Andrew Sedgwick Guth

Don Joint

Mike Kuchar

Emily Lombardo

Eric Lotzer

George Platt Lynes

John MacConnell

Anthony Moore

Ben Norris

Stuart Sandford

Margaret Rose Vendryes

Andy Warhol

Sara Zielinski

On exhibit until December 11th, 2021
Ink Wash By Felipe Chavez: Let Them Go At Childs GalleryQuick View
11×15IN.
Let Them Go
Painting By Young Swimmer: Young Swimmer At Childs GalleryQuick View
32×24IN.
Young Swimmer
Sculpture By Stuart Sandford: The Prisoner At Childs GalleryQuick View
20×478IN.
The Prisoner
Photograph By [mel Fillini, Study For "the Sea" Iv]: [mel Fillini, Study For "the Sea" Iv] At Childs GalleryQuick View
712×412IN.
[Mel Fillini, Study for "The Sea" IV]
Photograph By Jared French: [mel Fillini, Study For "the Sea" Iii] At Childs GalleryQuick View
712×412IN.
[Mel Fillini, Study for "The Sea" III]
Photograph By Jared French: [mel Fillini, Study For "the Sea" I] At Childs GalleryQuick View
412×712IN.
[Mel Fillini, Study for "The Sea" I]
Drawing By Mike Kuchar: Sugar Daddy At Childs GalleryQuick View
1912×13IN.
Sugar Daddy
Photograph By Stuart Sandford: Polaroid Collage Lviii At Childs GalleryQuick View
414×312IN.
Polaroid Collage LVIII
Photograph By George Platt Lynes: [bernard Perlin] At Childs GalleryQuick View
914×712IN.
[Bernard Perlin]
Drawing By Paul Cadmus: Male Nude Nm32 At Childs GalleryQuick View
1912×16IN.
Male Nude NM32
Sculpture By Richmond Barthé: Head Of A Man, Or Head Of A Boy At Childs GalleryQuick View
12×7IN.
Head of a Man,
Painting By Anthony Moore: Mercury Climacus At Childs GalleryQuick View
1712×11IN.
$16,000
Mercury Climacus
Drawing By John Macconnell: Mitch At Childs GalleryQuick View
72×42IN.
$9,500
Mitch
Drawing By John Macconnell: Kevin At Childs GalleryQuick View
72×4212IN.
$9,500
Kevin
Painting By Anthony Moore: Behold A Pale Figure At Childs GalleryQuick View
9×6IN.
$8,500
Behold a Pale Figure
Photograph By George Platt Lynes: [george Platt Lynes] At Childs GalleryQuick View
914×712IN.
$8,500
[George Platt Lynes]
Sculpture By Don Joint: Under The Fig Leaf At Childs GalleryQuick View
18×18IN.
$7,500
Under The Fig Leaf
Photograph By George Platt Lynes: [chuck Howard In Profile] At Childs GalleryQuick View
10×8IN.
$7,500
[Chuck Howard in Profile]
Sculpture By Raphaël Jaimes Branger: Laocoon At Childs GalleryQuick View
37×26IN.
$7,500
Laocoon
Painting By Hannah Barrett: Fire Island: Hedda Lettuce At Childs GalleryQuick View
50×36IN.
$6,500
Fire Island: Hedda Lettuce
Photograph By [nude Male From Behind, With Arms Outstretched]: [nude Male From Behind, With Arms Outstretched] At Childs GalleryQuick View
9×712IN.
$6,500
[Nude Male from Behind, with Arms Outstretched]
Painting By Hannah Barrett: Fire Island: The Sea Gull At Childs GalleryQuick View
50×36IN.
$6,500
Fire Island: The Sea Gull
Painting By Andrew Sedgwick Guth: Hold Me Tight Temporary Lover At Childs GalleryQuick View
3414×2534IN.
$5,500
Hold me tight temporary lover
Painting By Andrew Sedgwick Guth: All The Places I've Yet To See (waiting For You In My Dreams) At Childs GalleryQuick View
3334×2512IN.
$4,800
All the places I've
Painting By Andrew Sedgwick Guth: Locker Room Talk (ryan In White Gym Jockstrap, Size Medium) At Childs GalleryQuick View
3334×2512IN.
$4,000
Locker room talk (Ryan
Drawing By Mike Kuchar: General At Childs GalleryQuick View
21×12IN.
$4,000
General
Photograph By Pajama (paul Cadmus, Jared French, Margaret French): Jared French (photograph By Paul Cadmus) At Childs GalleryQuick View
638×414IN.
$4,000
Jared French (photograph by Paul Cadmus)
Watercolor By Ben Norris: Boys On Rocks #2 [hawaii] At Childs GalleryQuick View
14×18IN.
$3,750
Boys on Rocks #2 [Hawaii]
Watercolor By Ben Norris: Boys On Rocks #3 At Childs GalleryQuick View
14×18IN.
$3,750
Boys on Rocks #3
Photograph By Rick Castro: Amputee Hustler (from Hustler White) At Childs GalleryQuick View
20×16IN.
$3,600
Amputee Hustler (from Hustler White)
Photograph By Rick Castro: Wrestler Son Tops Daddy At Childs GalleryQuick View
20×16IN.
$3,600
Wrestler Son Tops Daddy
Painting By John Macconnell: Ernie At Childs GalleryQuick View
24×18IN.
$3,200
Ernie
Painting By Hannah Barrett: Hunters' Picnic: Nach Der Scheidung At Childs GalleryQuick View
24×20IN.
$3,000
Hunters' Picnic: Nach der Scheidung
Mixed Media By Don Joint: Whatnots: The Optometrist, Diptych At Childs GalleryQuick View
7×812IN.
$2,500
Whatnots: The Optometrist, Diptych
Drawing By Eric Lotzer: Kiss At Childs GalleryQuick View
16×13IN.
$2,400
Kiss
Drawing By Eric Lotzer: Reverse Cowboy At Childs GalleryQuick View
13×16IN.
$2,400
Reverse Cowboy
Drawing By Eric Lotzer: Discreet At Childs GalleryQuick View
16×13IN.
$2,400
Discreet
Mixed Media By Don Joint: What Nots: Boy God At Childs GalleryQuick View
13×6IN.
$2,250
Whatnots: Boy God
Drawing By John Macconnell: Collage Of Nude Studies At Childs GalleryQuick View
24×18IN.
$2,250
Collage of Nude Studies
Print By Emily Lombardo: At Sea At Childs GalleryQuick View
30×22IN.
$2,200
At Sea
Mixed Media By Don Joint: L'ideal Photograveure At Childs GalleryQuick View
12×7IN.
$2,000
L'ideal photograveure
Painting By Hannah Barrett: Secret Society: Viscount Shrimpton At Childs GalleryQuick View
18×14IN.
$1,800
Secret Society: Viscount Shrimpton
Print By Margaret Rose Vendryes: Blackglam Legends: Black Pearl 1972 At Childs GalleryQuick View
24×18IN.
$1,250
Blackglam Legends: Black Pearl 1972
Print By Margaret Rose Vendryes: Blackglam Legends: Black Janet 2012 At Childs GalleryQuick View
24×18IN.
$1,250
Blackglam Legends: Black Janet 2012
Print By Margaret Rose Vendryes: Blackglam Legends: Black Naomi 2007 At Childs GalleryQuick View
24×18IN.
$1,250
Blackglam Legends: Black Naomi 2007
Collage By Stuart Sandford: Polaroid Collage Xlix At Childs GalleryQuick View
414×312IN.
$1,100
Polaroid Collage XLIX
Collage By Stuart Sandford: Polaroid Collage L At Childs GalleryQuick View
414×312IN.
$1,100
Polaroid Collage L
Collage By Stuart Sandford: Polaroid Collage Xxx At Childs GalleryQuick View
414×312IN.
$1,100
Polaroid Collage XXX
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Print By Margaret Rose Vendryes: Blackglam Legends: Black Janet 2012 At Childs Gallery

Margaret Rose Vendryes

Jamaican-American (b. 1955)

Blackglam Legends: Black Janet 2012, 2019
Digital Collage Print, Ultrachrome archival inks on acid-free 100% cotton rag watercolor paper
24×18IN.CM
Signature: lower right margin
$1,250