Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989

April 24–July 20, 2019

Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989

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In June, as part of Pride Month, ARTnews hosted a panel titled “Picturing Herstory: Queer Artists on Lesbian Visibility,” in partnership with the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, at Spring Place in New York. For the panel, ARTnews convened artists Joan E. Biren (JEB), Lola Flash, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden to discuss how they began making art, why it’s important to center people who have historically been excluded from the mainstream, and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, T Magazine invited a multigenerational group of artists to reflect on the demonstrations and their legacy. “Today, there’s a lot of infighting about who threw the first brick,” observes Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, an artist who was at the bar that summer night, in his response below. (Lanigan-Schmidt’s work is currently on view in “Art After Stonewall, 1969–1989,” a joint exhibition at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art — one of several shows throughout the country devoted to the protests and their aftermath. Others can be found at the Brooklyn Museum and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.)

2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, one of the most significant events in Western queer history. Needless to say, the riot against police brutality led by trans women of colour heavily influenced the social fabric of NYC. But it also had a large impact on artistic movements. Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989 chronicles the visual history of queer America.

On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York's West Village was the site of a massive protest that sparked the modern LGBT rights movement. As we approach Stonewall's 50th anniversary, New York is playing host to a variety of exhibitions that explore the past, present and future of the queer community through art.

Spanning the two decades between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis, Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989 celebrates the passion, inventiveness, and fierce solidarity of the first generation of “out” artists and activists. Published in conjunction with the Columbus Museum of Art to coincide with the opening of an exhibition of the same name, this groundbreaking volume stands as a visual history of twenty years in American queer life revealing the impact of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement on the art world.

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.

Nobody was plotting revolution on the night of June 28 1969 at the mafia-run gay bar on Christopher Street in Manhattan’s West Village. Mostly, patrons just wanted to be left alone. The police raided the Stonewall Inn, as they often did, but this time they met resistance, and resistance detonated six days of mayhem. Someone uprooted a parking meter and used it as a battering ram. Street kids formed a chorus line and faced down the police with synchronised kicks and a song:“We are the Stonewall Girls, / We wear our hair in curls, / We wear no underwear, / We show our pubic hair.” A fire hose was deployed.

Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989 is the first major exhibition to examine the impact on visual culture of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) liberation movement sparked fifty years ago with the Stonewall Uprising. The show includes works by openly LGBTQ artists such as Scott Burton, Vaginal Davis, Lyle Ashton Harris, Greer Lankton, Catherine Opie, and Andy Warhol.

LGBTQI advocates often credit the Stonewall riots of June 1969 as a watershed moment of the gay liberation movement—three nights of radical collective response, wherein butches, queens, sex workers, homeless youth, and trans/gender-nonconforming folks fought alongside one another to protest the punitive surveillance and imprisonment that was a given for those who dared congregate openly as queers. 

With recent major museum retrospectives from Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz and Hockney, LGBTQI art seems to be having more than a moment. But while museums have traditionally honored single artists, large survey shows of queer art are rarer than you might think. The Columbus Museum of Art’s new traveling exhibition, “Art After Stonewall, 1969 – 1989,” is a welcome remedy to that.

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)

It’s WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Support the LGBTQ+ community, celebrate it, or get educated by seeing these shows. You can also just head out to Governors Island and be fabulous with our favorite performance artist and editor-at-large Ayana Evans. The choice is yours. Have a great weekend!

WNYC’s business and culture editor, Charlie Herman, joins us for this week’s installment of “Charlie for the Culture.” Today, he discusses ART AFTER STONEWALL, 1969-1989 at the Leslie Lohman Museum (April 24 – July 21) and at the Grey Art Gallery (April 24–July 20), STONEWALL 50 at New-York Historical Society (May 24 – September 22), NOBODY PROMISED YOU TOMORROW: ART 50 YEARS AFTER STONEWALL at the Brooklyn Museum (May 3–December 8), and LOVE & RESISTANCE: STONEWALL 50 at the New York Public Library (February 14–July 13).

On the occasion of World Pride Month and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, this episode celebrates Pride and explores the history of LGBTQ+ art-making since Stonewall. Listeners will [...] tour the exhibition "Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989" with curators Jonathan Weinberg and Drew Sawyer at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York City.

Being Pride month, June is always a festive time to celebrate the diversity among us. It’s also often a time to recognize the feats that the LGBTQ community have overcome and continue to face every other month of the year. This year, Pride month is ever more potent as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, also known as the Stonewall Riots and Stonewall Rebellion.

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.

Society didn’t rush to embrace queer communities after the 1969 riots that collectively became known as Stonewall, but at least a harassed minority group finally had a name, a voice, and eventually, a movement. And even if government-sponsored harassment didn’t suddenly stop—the riots began because of a police raid on a gay bar in the West Village called the Stonewall Inn—Stonewall was, at the very least, an indicator that things were beginning to change.

Start counting forward from the Stonewall uprising, and you’re likely to find yourself feeling free, maybe obligated even, to indulge fanciful ideas. Contemporaneous accounts present it as a surreal scene. There’s a counterweight, of course, and that’s the impulse to honor the real risks and sacrifices those pioneering spirits made to move the culture forward. Haltingly forward, sure but not for lack of effort. All of that and more was on display those June nights in 1969.

See artworks in the survey “Art After Stonewall: 1969–1989,” which opens at the Grey Art Gallery and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York next week. To complement that exhibition and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, ARTnews’s current issue focuses on queer art today.

It’s late June 1969, and the young people clustered on Christopher Street look giddy, some performing, others a bit shy before the camera. Neither they nor Fred McDarrah, the Village Voice photographer who shot Celebration After Riots Outside Stonewall Inn (1969), could have known that the riots—the spontaneous result of a few Stonewall patrons deciding to disrupt “business as usual” during a routine shakedown of the Greenwich Village bar—would come to be seen as having sparked a revolution in the gay rights movement, but that spark seems to light their bodies and faces.

Fifty years ago, police stopped by the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village during the early hours of 28 June 1969, checking apparently for alcohol law violations. But the employees and patrons of the gay bar resisted what had become regular harassment by the authorities, sparking six days of protests—and changed the course of LGBTQ+ history.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprisings, Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989 is a long-awaited and groundbreaking survey that features over 200 works of art and related visual materials exploring the impact of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) liberation movement on visual culture. Presented in two parts—at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art—the exhibition features artworks by openly LGBTQ artists such as Vaginal Davis, Louise Fishman, Nan Goldin, Lyle Ashton Harris, Barbara Hammer, Holly Hughes, Greer Lankton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, Joan Snyder, and Andy Warhol. On view at the Grey Art Gallery from April 24 through July 20, 2019 and at the Leslie-Lohman Museum from April 24 through July 21, 2019, the exhibition is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art.

This June will be a month of celebration in New York, as the city ushers in the sixth edition of WorldPride. The timing is especially powerful because 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall uprising, the precursor to the contemporary pride parade as we know it. [...] Across New York, museums and galleries are commemorating the Stonewall uprising with thoughtful exhibitions that contextualize the event and explore its far-reaching legacy. Here are five to put on your radar.

The new exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of violent clashes between members of the Greenwich Village gay community and New York City police. The Stonewall riots, as they are also known, kicked off on June 28, 1969 and are recognized as a turning point in New York and American history.

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.

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.

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.

Andy Warhol was among the celebrities Tseng importuned at the Met, and there is something of Warhol’s nineteen-sixties self-invention in Tseng’s cultivation of an unvarying image, a mask that made the most of his outsider station. But Tseng’s art is emphatically of the eighties. He is best known for—that is, a little obscured by—his documenting, in more than twenty-five thousand photographs, the work of his friend Keith Haring. (One such photo, and more of Tseng’s work, is currently on view as part of the exhibit “Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989,” at the Grey Art Gallery, at N.Y.U.) 

“Art After Stonewall” has been a critical hit since it opened in April, and it’s not hard to see why. More than just plotting this moment on the art historical map, it taps into sentiments that remain culturally salient in our current time. “We’re obsessed with autonomy right now,” Weinberg tells artnet News. “People are very anxious and feel like they have no control over their lives, so we look to these moments in time and we see them as a declaration of selfhood.”

Holland Cotter reviews several exhibitions commemorating this summer’s 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. These are “substantial displays of art produced in the long wake of the uprising,” he wrote, adding that the “largest of them is the two-part “Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989” shared by Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum in SoHo.

Pride or protest, much of the past 50 years has been reflected in art. An extensive “Art After Stonewall” exhibit spans the space of two galleries — Leslie-Lohman Museum (212-431-2609, and NYU’s Grey Art Gallery (212-998-6780, — and includes more than 150 pieces by openly gay artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, David Hockney and Andy Warhol.

The show Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989 is spread over two spaces: work from the 1970s is at the world’s only museum of LGBT art, the Leslie-Lohman Museum (suggested admission $10, until 21 July), while art from the 1980s is at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery (suggested admission $5, until 20 July). The show clearly sets artworks in the context of the fight for LGBTQ rights and changing concepts of sexuality and gender.