It's the 1960s and in a small club called the Stonewall Inn, people gather to drink, dance, and be themselves. Fifty years ago, all hell broke loose as patrons of that Greenwich Village pub clashed with police in what is now considered the modern beginning of the fight for gay rights.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. On Saturday, September 14, the Frost Museum will host "Art After Stonewall 1969-1989" to recognize that milestone. The exhibit will run through January 5, 2020. In December, the show will headline at Miami Art Week.
This exhibit is the first of its kind, and more than 200 works of art explore the impact of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender liberation movement on visual culture.
"Art After Stonewall" highlights performance, film, and video art, photography, painting, sculpture, and music, and will feature historical documents and images taken from magazines, newspapers, and television. The collection was organized by Columbus Museum of Art and curated by Jonathan Weinberg, Daniel Marcus, and Drew Sawyer.
Weinberg, an art historian at Yale and an artist, said the project has been seven years in the making.
“I'm a gay artist and work on queer issues. I became aware that Stonewall was not getting the attention it needed,” Weinberg says. “It is important for everyone to see this show. It is not just about queer issues — it's about social justice and (the) equality needed to create a community.”
Frost Museum director Jordana Pomeroy jumped at the opportunity to host the exhibition.
“It is important for Miami and the museum," Pomeroy says. "I saw a new approach to bringing attention the LGBTQ community and fight for gay rights. I thought it was forthright and scholarly and right for the Museum. It is meant to waken people to the struggles that gender-queer people found until Stonewall basically said, 'We're not going to take it anymore.'
Miami and the Frost Museum struck the exhibit's organizers as a great fit, Pomeroy said, given Miami's vibrant gay community.
"Because we are a teaching museum whose mission is to transform lives through art experiences, we strongly felt that this exhibition would open up new avenues for students, faculty, and the Miami community to consider how the LGBTQ movement shifted perspectives and approaches in the art world.”
The Stonewall Riots signaled a revolutionary change in the visual arts, bringing the subject of sexuality to the foreground.
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“The exhibition acknowledges the guts and grit of these artists, gay and straight, to make declarative and public visual statements about gender and sexuality," says Pomeroy.
Among the featured artists is Martin Kreloff, who lived in Miami from 1969 to 1989. His work in the show is the original invitation design for the first White Party fundraiser, which he helped create.
“I would say to younger LGBTQ Miamians interested in this exhibit: I invite you to come see how queer artists responded to the oppression of those times, and how we struggled to create a world where one could live a queer lifestyle with relative ease. My hope is that this next generation understands that we can never take these new-found liberties for granted — all it takes is a change in the political winds, and all this progress could be whisked away.”
Art After Stonewall 1969-1989. Runs September 14 through January 5 at the Frost Art Museum, Florida International University, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami; 305-348-2890; frost.fiu.edu. Admission is free.