Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Delia Meza

Published on June 01, 2019

  • Museum: Brooklyn Museum

  • Visit Date: June, 2019

  • Description:

    The Brooklyn Museum of Art is currently displaying a new exhibit called, “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall.” It is part of a menagerie of events taking place throughout New York City commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969’s Stonewall Uprising. The exhibition focuses on the impact and legacy that the events of the Stonewall Uprising had on society, especially the LGBTQ+ artists featured in this exhibit. The exhibit is divided into four segments; each section explores specific dimensions of its legacy: Revolt, Heritage, Desire, and Care.

    As I walked into the exhibition, I felt a bit overwhelmed, however. The first thing I noticed was the incredible diversity of artistic genres represented. Throughout the exhibition, there were works such as graphic arts, paintings, photographs, performance videos, banners, and sculptures, all fighting for my attention.

    Also, at the beginning of the exhibit, I noticed something unique. Listed separately, only inches away from the introduction panel were the names of all 28 participating artists under the bold heading, “Artists.” It gave me the sense that the creators of this exhibit were intentional in acknowledging each artist and didn’t want their names lost amongst the small print next to the art. Furthermore, on the opposite side of the wall was a panel titled, “A Note on Language.” It sensitively unpacked terms such as LGBTQ+ and acknowledged the expanding use of terminology based on gender identity. As a result of seeing this in the beginning, I carried the feeling of inclusivity and diversity as I moved along the exhibit.

    Missing from this exhibit, however, was factual or historical information pertaining to the Stonewall Uprising event itself represented in the artwork. Personally, since I’m not very familiar with this event, I would have appreciated seeing some artistic representation and interpretations about it. Perhaps, the exhibit was meant for visitors already familiar with this information and rather than reliving the events of the past, this exhibit is focusing more on the aftermath and the possibilities in the future.

    As I moved along the exhibit, I came across an interactive resource forum, called, “Our House.” It is a separate room, also with various activities. The physical set up of the space is conducive to either deep personal reflection or social interactions. There are individual seats with headphones that allow visitors to electronically interact with a selection of texts, a living room-style sofa for visitors to rest casually, and picnic tables that encourage conversations. Additionally, the rubber-like texture of the floor adds a more laid-back feel distinctive to the hard, glossy wooden flooring in the galleries.

    These elements transform the room into a safe space for visitors. They can sit and take a moment to reflect on the exhibit, pick up a book to read about the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community, activism, and other social issues. Also, on the wall, there is an interactive component that invites visitors to contribute their ideas and feelings to the exhibit. The two prompt questions are, “What elders do you honor?” and “What tomorrow do you hope for?” Regardless of one’s personal thoughts and opinions on homosexuality, I believe these questions are open-ended and universal enough to allow everyone to contribute their ideas respectfully.

    Finally, the exhibition concludes with a beautiful painting by Jeffrey Gibson. Through patterned beadwork and abstract text, Gibson’s painting reads, “Because once you enter my house it becomes your house.” I believe this is a beautiful way of ending an exhibit that takes visitors through a journey of empathy, diversity, and inclusivity.

Latest Comments (1)

curious

by Kathleen Mclean - June 04, 2019

Thank you for this descriptive review Delia. I hope I can get to New York to see the exhibition for myself. It is curious that the exhibition statement says it “explores the profound legacy” of Stonewall, yet it leaves you in the dark about what actually happened—and what created the legacy that it is supposed to be exploring. I continue to wonder why art museums (and their exhibitions) have such a phobic relationship to “information” or providing social, political, and historical contexts for artwork. This is a recurring theme in many of the reviews this year. It would be great you could have a conversation with the creators of the exhibition to understand their intentions in leaving out this critical information.

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