Leslie Lohman Museum



Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History

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Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History


James Bidgood, Pan, 1965,
C-print, 22 x 22 in.
Courtesy of ClampArt.

Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History

Exhibition dates: October 18, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Opening Reception: October 17, 2014 6-8 pm

[New York, NY - September 2014] In perhaps its most ambitious exhibition to date, the Leslie- Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art will present Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History, opening on October 18, 2014. For the first time ever, the exhibition will trace the same-sex gaze as grounded in the classical form, from Antiquity to the modern day.

Curated by Jonathan David Katz, Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History establishes the centrality of the classical nude in the historical development of same-sex representation by following a chronological timeline of four major periods. Says Katz, “For over 2,500 years, we have cohabited with one aesthetic archetype—by far the longest such relationship in the western canon: the classical nude. Not only is it the longest lasting, most influential visual form for representing the human body up to the present day, but also it has become so powerfully naturalized as merely ‘the nude’ that we have often lost the ability to see it as a specific historical type, with a particular history, geography and canon.

For many centuries now, certain men and women have scoured this most respectable of aesthetic type for secret signs that speak of them, to them. And no wonder, for the nude has become an identification with, and projection onto, the culture that first birthed it, a classical world that saw both same-sex love and the human body as not only worthy of public representation, but as itself inherently beautiful.”

The exhibit will begin with Antiquity, consisting of marble and bronze sculptures from Greece and Rome, as well as Greek ceramics all representing versions of a Classical archetype appropriated by queer artists over time.

The Renaissance section of the exhibit explores the period’s pervasive homoerotic representation of the Classical Nude. Although sodomy was criminalized across Europe during this time period, the humanist intellectuals and artists who started to question governmental and ecclesiastical authority gave rise to an incipient urban subculture of homosexual men, who both realized their sexual desires in depictions of the male nude, and were able to justify the homoeroticism of their work as merely faithful to the outlines of the Antique as it was then being recovered.

The exhibition’s third part, the 18th and 19th centuries, features artists in sculpture, drawing and later, photography who increasingly came to understand the Classical past as a hopeful model for the future. As homosexuality was catalyzed into a class of persons, the classical nude - which was increasingly homoeroticized in explicit ways - continued to be a central gay trope.

The ways in which modern and contemporary queer visual culture rethinks and reinterprets the classical nude body is highlighted in the final section of the exhibit. Tee Corinne’s The Three Graces and Del LaGrace Volcano’s Herm Torso both belong to a time period in which binary definitions of sexuality were challenged. What was once an overwhelmingly white male trope started to be embraced by female and transgender artists, in addition to non-Western artists and artists of color.

Museum Director Hunter O’Hanian says, “the exhibition will contain nearly a hundred objects of sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, video, and prints from the Museum’s permanent collection, the Library of Congress, Smithsonian American Art Museum, New York Public Library and many other institutions. The degree of cooperation has been astounding.” Other participating organizations include, Godwin-Tern Bach Museum, Archives of American Art, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and many others. The exhibition will feature Djuna Barnes, Aubrey Beardsley, James Bidgood, Romaine Brooks, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Paul Cadmus, Heather Cassils, Tee Corinne, Patricia Cronin, F. Holland Day, George Dureau, Albrecht Dürer, Jim French, Eve Fowler, William von Gloeden, Nan Goldin, Sunil Gupta, Lyle Ashton Harris, John Burton Harter, Jess, Herbert List, George Platt Lynes, Andrea Mantegna, Robert Mapplethorpe, Duane Michals, Zanele Muholi, Jacopo Pontormo, Guido Reni, Herb Ritts, Del LaGrace Volcano, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and others.

Katz says, “Many of the earliest homoerotic images in the newly visible homosexual canon were by women, in part because while men lost status in declaring their homosexuality, for many women— conventionally forced to live under their father’s roof and then their husband’s with little to no independence—homosexuality offered a means not only of declaring autonomy but even competing with men for the affections of women.”

A complete catalog will accompany the exhibition. A portion of the exhibition was on view at the ONE Archive and Museum in Los Angeles during the summer of 2014. This exhibition is presented by the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art with support by the John Burton Harter Charitable Trust and with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

About the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
“...invaluable museum.” Holland Cotter, New York Times, June 2013
Best place for gay culture, Time Out New York: New York's Best 2012
The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the first and only dedicated gay and lesbian art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve gay and lesbian art, and foster the artists who create it. The Museum has a permanent collection of over 22,000 objects, 6-8 major exhibitions annually, artist talks, film screenings, readings, THE ARCHIVE - a quarterly art newsletter, a membership program, and a research library. The Leslie-Lohman Museum is operated by the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Inc., a non-profit founded in 1987 by Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman, who have supported gay and lesbian artists for over 30 years. The Leslie-Lohman Museum embraces the rich creative history of the gay and lesbian art community by informing, inspiring, entertaining, and challenging all who enter its doors.

The Museum is located at 26 Wooster Street in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Admission is free, and hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 12-6 pm, and Thursday, 12-8 pm. The Museum is closed Monday and all major holidays. The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization and is exempt from taxation under section 501(c)3 of the IRS Code. The Museum can be reached at 212-431-2609. For more information, go to LeslieLohman.org.

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