Gender-Fluid Artists Come Out of the Gray Zone

Since Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman began showing work by gay artists in their loft in 1969, gender fluidity has been part of the mix, said Gonzalo Casals, director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in SoHo. “But it’s very important for mainstream museums — not just for cultural specific museums like mine — to show that work,” he added. “The best way you can alienate a community is by denying them their reflection in society.”

Survey shows have traditionally relied on establishing categories like “women-only” or “Latin American artists.” The curator of “Trigger,” Johanna Burton, is intent on disrupting categorization, much as the artists are personally doing.

“Some of the activist work we think of from the AIDS crisis was really didactic,” said Ms. Burton, who promises that the New Museum exhibition “won’t look like a political show from the ’80s. Beauty and pleasure are really primary for these artists and are seen as a mode of resistance.”

Sadie Benning’s lush new series of photographs titled “rainy day/gender,” for instance, are self-portraits shot through droplets on a windshield in a way that makes the artist’s body appear surreal and almost incomprehensible.

Mickalene Thomas explores lesbian desire in her 12-monitor video grid, “Me as Muse,” presenting herself reclining naked on a couch and focusing the gaze on different parts of her body.

Candice Lin and Patrick Staff’s smoke machine will pump testosterone-lowering, plant-based tinctures into the museum lobby in their piece “Hormonal Fog” — sure to both delight and startle viewers when they learn what they are breathing.


Mickalene Thomas, “Me as Muse,” 2016, a multimedia video installation about lesbian desire.

Mickalene Thomas/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; Tony Prikryl for the…

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