Queer culture and identity express themselves in a variety of different forms. On Jan. 25, McIntosh Gallery premiered two new exhibits that strive to celebrate the different aspects LGBT2Q+ expression: “If You've Got It, Flaunt It,” curated by Lucas Cabral, and “Michael Bidner: Raw,” curated by Jason Dickson.
While the exhibits are starkly different from one another in both content and style, the commonality they share is that they both display art by LGBT2Q+ artists and explore identity through different mediums.
“If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It” focuses on performance art, showcasing both photography and video elements throughout the exhibit. Cabral explains that the aim of the exhibit is to express different forms of identity and self-love experienced by members of the LGBT2Q+ community.
“The idea came to me when I was listening to a song called ‘When You Got It, Flaunt It,’ which is a bit of a gay or queer anthem,” he says. “Those lyrics and that line cultivated the idea that queer people exist to a certain extent in their heads. You have to recognize your difference, what your identity is, how you identify and how you perform.”
Right when you walk into “If You’ve Got it, Flaunt It,” you’re greeted by The Dolly Shot, a video piece by Mr. Mrs. Keith Murray. The video features the artist lip-synching to Dolly Parton's “I Will Always Love You.” As you walk through the exhibit, admiring everything from Danny Welsh’s vibrant photography to the retrospective images of Vivek Shraya, you can still hear the music playing faintly in the background.
“It's a nice moment where love is also involved in the exhibition,” Cabral explains. “We're celebrating people learning to love parts of themselves and being confident in loving parts of themselves that make them queer and make them different.”
Whereas “If You've Got It, Flaunt It” focuses on the lens-based work of multiple different artists, “Michael Bidner: Raw” celebrates identity and expression in a completely different way. The exhibition solely focuses on the work of Michael Bidner (1944-89), serving as a retrospective for the London-born artist's career.
Dickson explains that, despite being a pioneer in his field, Bidner’s work is rarely remembered or celebrated today.
“Bidner was exceptionally groundbreaking in his chosen medium of lithography, photocopy art, zines, artist books and artist stamps,” Dickson says. “He died prematurely in the late 80s of a complication with AIDS, and at the crux of his career when he was breaking through internationally, he passed away and sort of vanished. In this retrospective, we’re trying to draw attention to how important he was.”
“Michael Bidner: Raw” features pieces from every era of Bidner's career, which was inspired by both London’s LGBT2Q+ community and London’s punk scene. Whether Bidner was experimenting with mail art or was creating zines, he was inspired by the movements happening in the communities around him.
“What he was doing in the 1970s and 80s was not well-regarded in his time,” Dickson says. “He was ahead of his time by about 20 or 30 years. I think the audience is there for him now and that younger artists will appreciate everything he did.”
You can visit both “If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It” and “Michael Bidner: Raw” at the McIntosh Gallery until March 24.