The art of perseverance
Queer Black artists have shaped the history of Pride in the US, says writer Osman Can Yerebakan
By Osman Can Yerebakan . Above image: Glenn Ligon, Double America 2, 2014©; Hauser & Wirth, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London and Chantal Crousel, Paris Friday 3 July, 2020 Long read
In 51 years following the first Pride, art has remained a fundamental channel for the queer community. Its subversive fury granted shelter for the disenfranchised, a voice for the silenced, and an escape for the broken.
The Piers (male drinking with cigarette), Alvin Baltrop©, The Alvin Baltrop Trust and Galerie Buchholz
The Piers (Exterior), Alvin Baltrop©, The Alvin Baltrop Trust and Galerie Buchholz
Photography has been a conceptual tool for some, such as Glenn Ligon whose Notes On The Margin Of The Black Book (1991-93) installation breaks down polarising representations of Black masculinity in art and media through image and text. Ninety-one reproduced pages of nudes from Robert Mapplethorpe’s infamous The Black Book series (1986) are paired with 78 quotes from various influential figures about, but not limited to, his photographs of Black male physiques.
PMS 17 Darkroom Mirror, Paul Mpagi Sepuya©
PMS 16 Darkcloth, Paul Mpagi Sepuya©
'Art has remained a fundamental channel for the queer community. Its subversive fury granted shelter for the disenfranchised, a voice for the silenced, and an escape for the broken'
Top: Designs for Drug Stores, 2019, Jacolby Satterwhite©. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Above: Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights, installation view at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, December 1, 2019-September 27, 2020. Image courtesy of The Bass, photography by Zachary Balber
Looking at the Sunrise and Calling it Dusk 2016, Toyin Ojih Odutola©. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Untitled (Tokyo, 2017), Toyin Ojih Odutola©. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
‘You never completely have your rights, one person, until you have all your rights,’ once declared Johnson about ‘throwing the brick’ to the police on 28 June 1969, alongside other pioneering activists of colour, such as Sylvia Rivera, Zazu Nova, and Stormé DeLarverie. A paintbrush, camera or brick, survival finds its tools in various forms for queer artists, especially for those of colour. Names, faces and struggles have continued to evolve over the half-century, building an ever-growing community, and for them, perseverance is a form of art itself.
Osman Can Yerebakan is an art writer and curator based in New York