I see a lot of white, cisgender profiles I follow on Instagram use the term “ally fatigue.” What the fuck is that? Shut up and pay people of color! Everyone has a valuable story to tell, but it’s more important than ever to pay attention to marginalized people who are making their perspectives known. Here are 5 exhibitions in NYC highlighting identity in art. Tell your mom, tell your friends, and support the spaces that see and hear the parts of America that have been erased.
Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell
Photographer Laura Aguilar was ahead of her time. A pioneering figure in the Latinx and LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles, she focused on showing identity in art with nude, large-bodied people who weren’t considered worthy of attention by the patriarchal world that places small, white bodies on the pedestal of beauty. Aguilar struggled with mental health and auditory dyslexia, further adding to her struggles as a working-class Chicana woman. This exhibit brings more than 70 works of her art produced over 30 years to the table, making an exciting retrospective in the NYC art scene. Her nude self-portraits and use of her friends and fellow artists as subjects create a conversation about identity: how it’s formed, how it impacts others, and how it can be used as a critique of our society. Bring your racist, sexist, homophobic dad to this one and watch him squirm!
Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America
Oooo, girl! The New Museum is fighting back against police brutality towards black people with this one. This powerful exhibit features 37 different artists from different generations and backgrounds who work in a wide variety of mediums to tell a story of identity in art in direct response to the atrocities committed against black people. These works scream fuck Donald Trump, fuck racism, fuck white guilt and performed white grievance over dead black bodies, and fuck anyone who refuses to question America’s past and future. There’s video, sculpture, painting, and photography to keep folx both old and young stimulated enough to begin to question where they stand when it comes to protecting black bodies. Stay woke.
John Edmonds: A Sidelong Glance
Want to celebrate Brooklyn artists? Head to the Brooklyn Museum ASAP to see John Edmonds’ photography. Beautiful portraits and still lifes create visceral reactions when considering black queer identity in art and the power struggle. His work considers representation, value, and meaning in individuals and institutions.
Dawoud Bey: An American Project
What does it mean to represent America with a camera? Dawoud Bey questions this and more with his exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Bey doesn’t shy away from raw portrayals of race and power. He views photography not just as a way to express himself but as a tool to open the conversation of stories that aren’t usually represented. From kids on the street to teens in classrooms, there’s a social problem for everyone to tackle with his visual aid.
Pixy Liao: Your Gaze Belongs to Me
It wouldn’t be a conversation about identity without reversing gender roles, baby! Liao puts herself in a dominant role in her photographs. Usually, in Liao’s Chinese culture, the husband expects the woman to be submissive. Liao states this exhibition is an experiment. She wants to break down barriers in relationships and reach a state where both partners can be considered equals. We see you, babe! And we love a dominant femme person.
These exhibits aren’t meant to make you feel comfortable, safe, or at ease in the space you take up in the world. It wouldn’t be art if it didn’t cause a little controversy. By highlighting identity in art, these artists show that America has silenced so many important voices. It’s no longer acceptable to focus on art from people who all look the same. What a gift that we live in a city where we can see political, racial, and cultural boundaries broken down. Cheers to the freaking weekend. Let’s go out and support people of color.