Amaryllis Moleski, Instructions For Freedom

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#afropunkweseeyou: black lgbtq+ artists shine at bk museum

June 3, 2019
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I arrived at the Brooklyn Museum a shade later than I’d originally planned on Thursday evening. Perfect timing to enjoy the opening reception for Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall, the museum’s spring exhibition honoring the fight for queer liberation in the years since the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Even though this is the 101st event this season celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall (a popular theme throughout New York City at the moment) the excitement in the room was still palpable. Wine flowed freely, music thumped in the background and the usual suspects of Brooklyn’s queer scene were in attendance. At one point, someone cracked a joke about the reception feeling like a real life “throwback Thursday,” to which everyone in earshot laughingly agreed.

While the makeup of the crowd may have felt like a throwback, the curators of Nobody Promised You Tomorrow, a five person team including Margo Cohen Ristorucci, Lindsay Harris, Carmen Hermo, Allie Rickard and Lauren Argentina Zelaya, brought in fresh blood to commemorate the monumental 50 year anniversary. The exhibition features 28 contemporary LGBTQ+ artists, most of whom are people of color, all born after 1969. Their work engages themes of heritage, care, revolt and desire in a number of mediums, ranging from drawing, film, audio tracks, sculpture and more. AFROPUNK made the journey to the Brooklyn Museum twice this week to bring you some of the highlights from Nobody Promised You Tomorrow. In accordance with their respective themes, here are some of the exhibits biggest takeaways:

DESIRE

The pieces pertaining to desire were undoubtedly my favorite. Black femme artists Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski and Linda LaBeija stood out amongst the sweaty crowd on Thursday night. LaBeija’s prolific spoken word piece Skins, perfectly encapsulated the frustrations of desire and more explicitly, sex, in a way that was agonizingly relatable. I sat facing the wall and closed my eyes. I bet if you pulled someone straight out of Stonewall, the bar, in the 1960s they’d have a similar story to tell as LaBeija. When it comes to the messy contradictions of fucking while queer or trans, don’t we all?

 Other highlights in this section included stills from Camilo Godoy’s zine Amigx an intimate, up close look at queer friendship and Felipe Baeza’s Post Colonial Object of Desire 3 and 4, which offered a more muted, but powerful expression of desire on handmade paper.

CARE NETWORKS

The section on care networks aimed to look at how LGBTQ+ communities care for one another, keep each other safe and find connection as a means for liberation. Although it featured work from Brooklyn favorites such as Papi Juice and Una Aya Osato, it still left much to be desired.

REVOLT

 

Revolt explored the more radical influences of the Stonewall Uprising. An uprising that was inherently anti-assimilationist, intersectional and unapologetic by nature. Juliana Huxtable, one of the many talented black trans artists featured in the exhibition, stood out with The Feminist Scam a cheeky critique of feminism in black communities. The indignant work in this section was empowering and fun. A head nod to the brave bodies who rioted during Stonewall, and a “fuck you” to the still abundant anti-queer, anti-trans and anti-feminists of today.

HERITAGE

A crowd favorite amongst opening day attendees, the heritage section offered a beautiful look into stories untold, with an emphasis on black trans and gender non conforming people. It offers one of the first looks at Tourmaline’s latest film, Salacia, a short on Mary Jones, a black trans woman living in New York City in the early 19th century. As well as Kiyan Williams’ Reflections which exhumes the voice of Jesse Harris, a black gender transgressive artist interviewed by filmmaker Marlon Riggs in 1989.

In summation, Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall is a wonderful honoring of the past, and a commanding arrival of the LGBTQ+ artists of today. This exhibition, made all the better by black trans and queer artists, is a must see! On view now through December 8th 2019 only at the Brooklyn Museum.

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