“We are homosexuals, and we are revolting!”
-Stonewall rioter, 1969
In “Revolting Homosexuals: A Self-Portrait,” Andrew Printer's image—his hand, face or entire body—is superimposed over black and white photos of gay icons like Jean Genet, Quentin Crisp, Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin. It's as if each man could share some wisdom with the other, meeting in a time vacuum to thoughtfully discuss the homosexual experience over a foaming latte and a cigarette.
“Gay acceptance is in the air,” Printer muses.
Printer and Sam Frazier, co-curators of Beyond the Surface—the edgy art and photography show opening Saturday at the Limbo Gallery in Hillcrest—find the time ripe to question and investigate gay identity as it morphs from the periphery of society to the main stage. Frazier says he sees an opportunity for the community to evolve past the dichotomies offered by either straight or gay social norms into a more evolved creature altogether.
“You hear conservatives discussing this idea of a ‘gay agenda.' Well if there is one, it's not mine anymore,” Frazier says. “Take this whole thing about gay marriage. Why do people have this need to fit into some hegemonic ideal? Instead of having the ‘straight' ideal of marriage and the ‘gay' ideal of hook-ups, why not create a new dynamic? Look into the modern idea of extended families, develop something new that works for real people with real experiences, instead of just co-opting a faded ideal.”
Beyond the Surface takes an unflinching look at the lubed-up, hairless gym bunnies who have become “the hallmark of the gay community” and demands something more. Printer cites the current state of mainstream rap, with its pre-packaged “bling” and assimilated style, and compares it to the days of gritty street musicians' innovation and multifaceted ingenuity-think A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Public Enemy over Lil' John, Nelly and Diddy. Beyond the Surface attempts to look beyond target demographics and clichéd stereotypes to the multifaceted complexities of human experience.
What happens when small-town America meets up with “the gay male community's preoccupation with naked and semi-naked guys”? Printer's 16-panel grid of photos, “Tomorrow Land?,” is eye-catching with its saturated colors and cheeky commentary on clichéd roles like the traveling salesman, the town drunk and the golden boy. But don't miss the subtle “Jeffrey's Turn,” in which the photographer lovingly addresses race and size issues and “In the Shadow of Judy and Rock,” a digital photo montage in which two men hold two photos of themselves, one from 1969, when Judy Garland died and Stonewall brought gay awareness to the forefront, and the other from 1985, when Rock Hudson died of AIDS.
Sam Frazier uses photography as many use paint on canvas. His soulful portraits confront the search for genuine experience within a superficial society. In “You Are Either With Us or Against Us,” Frazier considers the younger generation of homosexuals who don't feel the need to adopt the rainbow culture, and instead define themselves by another culture: the skater, the club kid, the mod, who, as a side note, is also gay. In another portrait, “Cookies,” a hefty guy wearing only an apron and sneakers challenges the homemaker ideal.
“He is the opposite of the ripped, tan, waxed stereotype, and yet he is still undeniably attractive,” explains Frazier.
Justin Frizza's illustrations have an otherworldly, voyeuristic sheen. They are online personal ads he has morphed into blazing, pattern-infused, digital pin-ups that delve into self-perception and self-presentation. Frizza notes, ‘With the Internet, we have this new space outside of reality that allows for an incomplete view based on our own expectations.” Frizza plays with the idea of online identity and gay culture's “obsession with looks, age and beauty.” The results are hysterical and provocative.
As a young punk/emo kid, Stephen Remington wondered what exactly he was supposed to take from gay icons such as Ellen Degeneres and Elton John. Now pursuing a master of fine arts degree at UC San Diego, the 25-year-old's work challenges people to move beyond “theory and preconceived notions and recognize their own barriers for what they are.”
Remington experiments with landscapes and creates foreign places with inflatable chambers. These meditative mazes conjure queer liaisons in parks and the maze-like surrealism of sex clubs. Remington's re-workings of the gay flag touch on the radical nature of early queer politics and the homoerotic edges of straight culture.
“What do we give up when we assimilate and no longer exist outside of cultural norms?” he asks. “Who are we cutting out? Yes, the gay culture is more accepted, but are we sacrificing a certain vibrancy? Are we afraid to be ‘deviant' now?”
Beyond the Surface runs through April 30 at the Limbo Arts Gallery, 1432 University Ave. (next to Ray's Tennis) in Hillcrest. An opening reception will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 8. 619-295-5393. www.limboarts.com.