The LGBTQI+ Gaze: Go Pride Month Gallery Cruising at These 6 Queer-Centric Exhibitions
Don't miss these highly-recommended New York shows that touch upon everything from pop culture parasites to punk rock to Princess Di.
During the lead-up to Pride Month, the news cycle has been dominated by an uproar against consumer brands’ supposed championing of queer causes. This cultural upheaval seems inevitable given the corporatization of Pride along with hollow marketing gestures and misdirected virtue signalling. At least we have great art shining a light at the end of the tunnel of bad beer and big box stores.
Here is a selected round-up of cool queer-centric shows currently on view in New York City. They’re all devoid of rainbows—most just happen to be up during Pride Month and represent a broad spectrum from high art to low brow.
For a varied gallery crawl that takes you from downtown to Brooklyn, be industrious and see them all in one day!
“Purple Prose” at Marianne Boesky Gallery
There’s more than meets the eye in most of the pieces on view in the group show “Purple Prose.” In Felix Beaudry’s The Glob Mother and Lazy Boy, two knit grotesqueries recline in a state of sloth on a hideous Archie Bunker 1970s couch—it is a work that is amusing at first, before it becomes unsettling. Elsewhere, Borna Sammak’s Gluck is an entrancing still-life of a chalice overflowing with vines and flora on black canvas, deftly made by combining beach towel remnants and embroidery. Upon closer inspection, Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s turgid oil abstraction has a hopeful glimmer of an embedded shiny swath of glass beads. John Burtle’s intricate red ink fantasia is crammed with narrative.
Organized by Kory Trolio, the exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery is queer in the modern sense: transgressions lean more towards psychological reveries than flagrant sexuality, and the definition of queer is really whatever one makes it. The show veers from ruminative at one turn to brutal at the next. Its title, “Purple Prose,” was derived from a term describing an overly embellished writing style. In that sense, high-drama is what links the artworks on view.
The gallery also deserves a special Bud Light toast and props for serving “wieners and fudgsicles” at the opening!
The group show “Purple Prose” is on view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, 509 West 24th Street, New York.
Juan Pablo Echeverri’s “Identidad Perdida” at James Fuentes
The show’s apt title translates as “Lost Identity,” and the Colombian artist specialized in consciously losing his, gleefully hopscotching between personas. The centerpiece is a portion of miss fotojapon, Echeverri’s 24-years-in-the-making opus, a daily self-portrait series that began in a photo booth and later segued to digital camera documentation. The project was prematurely halted upon the artist’s death in 2022 due to malaria at age 43.
But like Echeverri’s art practice, the exhibition isn’t so much a requiem as a celebration. His wry video work—an assortment of these play in the gallery’s lower level—is particularly exuberant. In the 2009 gem holiGay, the viewer encounters a gay beach proliferated with archetypes (all played by Echeverri, of course) frolicking in the surf, lip-synching to Madonna’s “Holiday.”
The exhibition (held jointly with an offshoot at Wolfgang Tillmans’s project space Between Bridges in Berlin, Germany) solidifies that Echeverri wasn’t just a distinct voice but a one-man chorus.
Juan Pablo Echeverri’s “Identidad Perdida” is on view until July 28 at James Fuentes, 55 Delancey Street, NY.
Silvia Prada’s “Obsessions,” featuring Coco Capitán, at Viso Project
The Spanish artists Silvia Prada and Coco Capitán teamed up for a sexy interlude of 1990s pop culture that isn’t so much a campy hodgepodge as it is an encapsulation of the gay male mindset of that era.
It’s also autobiographical. “I never consumed lesbian culture the way other lesbians did,” Prada says, her aesthetic perennially a laser-guided missile of what gay men want. “My identity culturally is more of a gay man. I grew up in my father’s hair salon for men and around men’s beauty. I socialized around gay men.”
The show consists of collages and illustrations, punctuated with Capitán’s photo embellishments. The specter of Calvin Klein looms large. There is bootleg Obsession merchandise and a porcelain replica of the iconic bar soap of the quintessential 1990s scent—the latter, an edition of 30, was Prada’s first foray into sculpture. There are also 12 delicate drawings of Princess Diana. How does she fit in to all of these sultry goings-on?
“In the 90s she was dressing so gay and she was rebellious,” Prada explains. “She was reacting to society. I was so into her looks with the big sweaters, jeans, and biker shorts. She made me feel gay. She was so queer and ladylike at the same time. It connected to Madonna’s Sex book and other things I was consuming at the time and I said, ‘Ok this makes me horny.’”
Silvia Prada’s “Obsessions” is on view at Viso Project, 46 Pearl Street Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Brontez Purnell’s “Anti-Alter Ego” at Trotter & Sholer
“Cancel Me?!?!?!?!? LOL – HOW BITCH!?!?!?” captions one of the tamer works in Purnell’s debut art show, which is like stepping into an immersive version of a black-and-white Xeroxed punk zine. Purnell, an accomplished musician, choreographer, and writer, brings his riotous DIY sensibility to whatever medium he indulges in. “I try to claim femme but really I’m just horny and violent and often misunderstood” is scrawled in lipstick across a mirror in a color photograph self-portrait. There’s no nihilism in his anarchy.
Purnell combined his diverse creative talents for a performance on the opening night, which featured the artist writhing nude in a pile of paper. On July 6, a film component, 100 Boyfriends Mixtape (a companion to his transgressively hysterical 2022 novel 100 Boyfriends) will screen at Performance Space New York and is, expectedly, not for the feint of heart.
Brontez Purnell’s “Anti-Alter Ego” is on view until July 8 at Trotter & Sholer, 168 Suffolk Street, NY.
Before the High Line, the Standard, and gentrification in New York, Manhattan’s Meatpacking District was the nexus of the city’s transsexual sex trade and queer nightlife scenes in the 1980s and ’90s. It was a time when heading to the wild west meant going past 9th Avenue and West 14th Street. The show “A District Defined” is a poignant visual document of this moment in history, culled from the photographs of Lynsey Addario, Lola Flash, Jill Freedman, Efrain Gonzalez, T.L. Litt, Catherine McGann, Katsu Anita, and Joseph Rodriguez.
This particular era of the neighborhood is trending at the moment. (It’s a character unto itself in HBO’s new The Stroll documentary.) The once-maligned last red light district of downtown and its after hours denizens (many of whom had no choice but to be there during that era’s dismal job climate for trans people) are now being viewed with a more empathetic mindset. We’re lucky that the photographers on-hand were there to not only capture the decadence, but also the grace.
“A District Defined: Streets, Sex, and Survival” is on view until July 9 at 401, West 14th Street, NY.
Isaac Peifer’s “Slay: Queer Villains” at THNK1994 Museum
Peifer began painting in 2019 and specializes in rendering pop culture icons who saturate the airwaves and doom scroll—the kind of people you’d wish you’d never heard of—in oil on canvas. His terrifyingly prescient rogue’s gallery consists of LGBTQIA+ news cycle goblins like the Canadian shop teacher with the Z-Cup breasts and the non-binary nuclear waste guru/ luggage thief.
Isaac Peifer’s “Slay: Queer Villains” is on view from June 23 through June 25 at THNK1994 Museum, 173 Elizabeth Street.
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