photo: courtesy of Rob Bondgren; pictured: "Cruising for a Stupid Boy"
Us queers go bonkers for the annual Reeling Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, but after the festivities, we find ourselves yearning for more visual stimuli. In cruising the city (no, not that kind of cruising), we discovered these five unabashedly queer art shows. So we're ditching the popcorn, hopping in the car and heading out of our apartments—after all, this art won't be coming to DVD soon.
Better Days Ahead at The Finch Gallery
Front gallery show through November 30; on view in back gallery through Dec 30
In the past 20 years, gay culture went from being somewhat underground to totally mainstream and marketable. In this body of reactive artwork, Chicago-based artist Rob Bondgren uses drawings, gouache, mixed-media paintings on paper, and oil paintings to examine gay male sexuality and the picture-perfect, stereotypical gay male body as portrayed through pornography, fashion magazines and mainstream gay culture. In "Cruising for a Stupid Boy," an older man cruises by in a sleek Mercedes-Benz. A young, hunky dude wearing a red Speedo gazes at him longingly. Bondgren carefully abstracts the boy's legs so that they can only be inferred by the drip of red paint gliding from his groin to the ground. By abstracting portions of the piece, Bondgren literally and figuratively creates a fleeting sense of desire.
Biological Exuberance at Western Exhibitions
Opened November 17
Chicago-based John Parot takes a closer look at the social behavior of the male species through large-scale drawings in ink and gouache on photographs. Borrowing the exhibition title from a book on homosexual behavior amongst animals, Parot co-opts author Bruce Bagemihl's ideas. Examining gay male debauchery, promiscuous behavior and power dynamics of sexual encounters, he delves head-on into Chicago's gay culture. In "Sudden Urge," an intricately patterned, alien-like male face appears against a neon-pink background. The man's intensely green eyes juxtaposed against a nose-less, veined face transform him into a predatory lion ready to devour its prey.
photo: courtesy of Brown Triangle
Positive Space/Negative Feelings at Brown Triangle Gallery
Through December 5 (appointment only)
Young Chicago artists Helen Kongsgaard, Aay Preston-Myint and Viktor Van Bramer discuss queer shame/anger and political melancholy as experienced in public space. Here, queer refers not only to people with marginalized sexualities, but also to people who do not fit into the mainstream. The exploration centers on costume, masking and disguise and bodily ornamentation. Inside the raw attic space of this alternative gallery, Van Bramer's abstract painting portrays the twisted body of a headless figure with smoke erupting from its neck; Preston-Myint's patterned wallpaper covers a crude structure; and Kongsgaard's orange hanging mask, made of a warped orange material, is an eerie, yet mandatory, disguise for a queer person navigating the urban frontier.
Erotic photographer Lochai at Leather Archives and Museum
Through end of November
The best erotic photographer is here in Chicago? Yep, you got it: Florida-based Lochai, who recently won the 2007 Erotic Signature of "The World's Greatest Erotic Art Today," is showing over 22 pieces, including "Beach Bound," a photograph of an ambiguously gendered, tied-up person, with a dark green shell-like structure separating the torso from the lower-half, gazing out onto a beach. Through photography, the artist strives to portray the emotional underpinnings of fetish. Other pieces include many women, tied-up in various positions—sometimes on the beach or on a bed. Just make sure you're over 18 if you plan to see this show.
Decline and Other New Works at gescheidle Opens November 30
photo: courtesy of gescheidle
In the queer art arena, some artists tackle issues head-on while others are more subtle. Darrel Morris' work is an example of the latter; in showing and not telling about his queer experience directly, his art explores the confines of a rigid masculinity, in part culled from his experience growing up gay in Appalachia, an economically unstable rural area in eastern Kentucky. Working exclusively in fiber—a material less visible in today's art world—Morris' delicate miniature stitchery pieces address issues of shame, humiliation and sadness. In "Homemade Hair Cut" (embroidery and applique on canvas), a young boy appears pain-stricken while his mother focuses intently on his scruffy haircut.