Fifty years ago this month, riots over a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village jump-started one of the most important movements of the 20th century—the fight for LGBTQ equality. The impact that this movement has had on the fabric of American culture is well documented. But its influence on generations of art makers has been, on an institutional level, vastly overlooked.

‘ART AFTER STONEWALL, 1969-1989’ at Grey Art Gallery (through July 20) and at Leslie-Lohman Museum (through July 21). For this summer’s half-century anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, substantial displays of art produced in the long wake of the uprising are filling New York City museums and public spaces. The largest is this two-part exhibition, organized by Jonathan Weinberg and shared by Grey Art Gallery at N.Y.U. and Leslie-Lohman Museum. 

The large survey Art After Stonewall, 1969-89 at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery (until 20 July) and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (until 21 July), is a sweeping commemoration of the landmark June 1969 event at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, a turning point for LGBTQ+ history, with more than 200 works covering topics from gender and body to Aids and activism, spanning media from sculptures to books to Charles Ludlam’s puppets.

In her classic 1975 self-portrait, the lesbian photographer Joan E. Biren (or “JEB,” as she is more commonly known) tacitly shifts the meaning of a road sign. Smiling, with a glint in her eye, she leans comfortably against the post, her confident posture signaling a reconfiguration of the word emblazoned above her head: DYKE points not to the Virginia town the sign is announcing, but to the photographer herself. Self-Portrait, Dyke, VA (1975) is a reclamation of the slur and a confrontation with all but JEB’s most kindred viewers.

This June marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment of LGBTQ activism. Institutions throughout the city are commemorating the anniversary, including the Leslie-Lohman Museum, which was established the same year as the riots. It is currently presenting Art After Stonewall, 1969 – 1989 at their Wooster Street location and at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University.

One summer night in 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay dive bar in New York’s Greenwich Village (John Waters said the “uppity gays would never go there”). While the police raided Stonewall for not having a liquor license, many saw it as an excuse to target sex workers and criminalize the gay community. Then something happened – the LGBTQ community fought back in a way that had never been seen before.

Commemorating Stonewall at 50 – Critic Holland Cotter digs into the stories behind several exhibitions in New York that commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. He takes readers on a tour of “Art After Stonewall, 1969–1989,” a two-venue show at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and the Leslie-Lohman Museum; a trio of small archival shows at the New-York Historical Society; and “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall” at the Brooklyn Museum. (New York Times)