From the 1969 police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York to the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, violent attacks have often been inflicted on the LGBTQ community. Curators at the Leslie-Lohman Museum have organized “The 1970s: The Blossoming of a Queer Enlightenment,” an exhibition of more than one hundred paintings and photographs that reflect instances of the community responding to hardship with public celebration, suggesting that visibility is a radical act in its own right. Visitors are greeted by Peter Hujar’s Gay Liberation Front Poster Image (1970), where boisterous protesters raise their fists, united and determined.
Among the works on display are photographs by Diana Davies and Rink Foto that document the political activism of iconic figures like Marcia P. Johnson and Harvey Milk. The unbridled sexuality depicted in four prints from Tee A. Connie’s “Cunt Coloring Book” (1975) exemplify this era of sexual freedom and expression. Also of note is Robert Mapplethorpe’s “X Portfolio” from 1978, a body of work included as evidence in the 1990 obscenity trials; these thirteen images were the harbinger of the ensuing Culture Wars.(Robert Reid-Pharr revisited this landmark event in the A.i.A.’s March issue.) This showing is a treat for those unable to see the dual Mapplethorpe retrospectives now on view in Los Angeles.
As Pride celebrations—however tainted by tragedy—come into full swing, the words on a sign held by a young man in one striking image by Fred W. McDarrah are worth remembering: Gay is Good.
Pictured: Diana Davies: Demonstration at City Hall, 1973/2013, digital print. Courtesy Leslie-Lohman Museum.