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Intimate Collages Celebrate Queerness and Feminism in Print

BDSM, Nazi fetishism, and the CIA all play a part in 'Cut-Ups: Queer Collage Practices' at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
November 2, 2016, 1:55pm
Steckel, Anita, Anita of New York Meets Tom of Finland, 2005, Mixed media on book pages, 19.6 x 13.5 in., Courtesy Estate of Anita Steckel and the Suzanne Geiss Company, New York

The political stands side-by-side with the personal, while the pornographic cozies up with the everyday, at Cut-Ups: Queer Collage Practices, the current exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

The show is a small-scale re-presentation of Cock, Paper, Scissors, which exhibited earlier this year in West Hollywood at the USC Libraries’ ONE Archives. In keeping with its boldly named predecessor, Cut-Ups is a splashy collection of the work of 15 intergenerational queer and feminists artists working, in one way or another, with paper. “This show is rooted in a love of materiality and craft found in collage,” curator of both shows, David Evans Frantz, tells The Creators Project. “The process of collage involves touching, cutting, affixing, and smoothing out—all forms of handling.”

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Yumang, Jade, Weeklies #19.37 (New York City) from the series Weeklies, detail, 2012, Cut magazine. Courtesy the artist

Also evidenced throughout the show is the flexibility of the form itself to handle, in a single frame, a paradoxical combination of themes. For example, the anonymous "Graphic Albums Collection” features gay male pornography in the same composite image as clippings from interior design and the visual art magazines. Artist Glenn Ligon’s work, meanwhile, is a perversion of the family photo album, while Ingo Swann’s pieces share a history with the CIA. Then, there's the formidable archive of the “West End Avenue Collection" a mashup of BDSM collages sprinkled with Nazi fetishism and the powerful quasi-self-portraits of Jonathan Molina-Garcia, who makes hybrids from images his own body and the bodies of older, HIV-positive men.

In each case, the artists of Cut-Ups make one thing quite clear: the relationship between print culture and queer culture is mutually beneficial. “Print culture was foundational to the formation of gay culture and politics even prior to the proliferation of public venues and institutions,” explains Frantz, “Liberation-era gay porn magazines often integrated lifestyle articles and arts coverage alongside nude pictorials, reflecting that readers’ sex lives were not separated from their broader lives or identities as gay men.”

Wright, Suzanne, Double Trouble, 2014, Photo collage, 30 x 14 in, Courtesy of the artist

This intersectionality is mirrored between the artists as well. “A number of the artists in Cut-Ups—the anonymous creator of the Graphic Albums Collection and artists Steve Blevins, Ingo Swann, and Olaf Odegaard—drew from and contributed to much of the same source material, suggesting not only parallel practices but also intersecting desires,” the curator continues. Further, “contemporary artists in the show such as Enrique Castejon and Jade Yumang continue this interest in print culture, reusing historical source materials in their works.”

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In a further iteration of intersectionality, narratives of the gay male experience in Cut-Ups are complemented by the show’s feminist and lesbian collages, whose playful gender-bending curbs the hegemony of phallocentric imagery. “How a feminist politics manifests in the works shown for each artist is heterogeneous,” says Frantz. “For example, Anita Steckel paints herself into the hyper-masculine drawings of Tom of Finland, pointing to alternate possibilities for erotic desire and identification. Other contemporary artists like Jade Yumang's decorative wall sculptures and Kate Huh and LJ Robert's collaborative collage/embroidery are indebted to the approach to craft and tactile feminist artists of the 1970s were reclaiming as potentially political.”

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Wright, Suzanne, Untitled (Holding Colony), 2015, Photo collage, 29 x 20 in.,Courtesy of the artist

Politics aside, however, Cut-Ups is ultimately a show about celebrating the creative capabilities of an overlooked technique. “The subtle choices of composition, layering, and scale inflect the physical activity of collage as deeply personal,” says the show’s curator, “and often loaded with desire and reverence.”

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Wright, Suzanne, Untitled (3rd Street Tunnel), 2015, Photo collage, 26 x 15 ½ in., Courtesy of the artist

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Castrejon, Enrique, Anonymous male passenger fragmented and measured in inches, 2016. Collage, glue, pigment ink, and graphite on paper, 14 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist

Cut-Ups: Queer Collage Practices is on view at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art until the 18th of December. Find out more on the show here.

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