By Emily Colucci
“Whenever I smell lighter fluid, the memory comes back to me very quickly, of the Stonewall Riot…Because that smell was in the air,” recalls artist and Stonewall veteran Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt in an interview with curator and art historian Jonathan Weinberg. “I associate the whole thing with the police coming there and basically trying to stop us from dancing with each other. Because that was the only place in the world where we could dance slow together.”
Lanigan-Schmidt’s piece is just one of the over 200 artworks and archival materials collected in a sprawling two-venue exhibition called Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989, which opens today at New York’s Grey Art Gallery and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn, the show surveys the many ways artists and activists engaged with LGBTQ+ politics, questioned the gender binary, depicted same-sex desire, and proudly represented their identities in the twenty years that followed.