Visual AIDS Visual AIDS Visual AIDS 15h Annual Postcards From the Edge, January 25-27, 2013 The Body
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Visual AIDS
  curator's statement october 2006 selection
      Visual AIDS

Leah Oates
s t a r d u s t :  a  t w o - p a r t  s h o w
c u r a t o r :  l e a h  o a t e s

  1. Magical Stagesets
  2. The Happening and the Importance of Style

Stardust is inspired by a time, a place (mainly New York and London) and a culture personified by David Bowie and the New York Dolls. David Bowie and the New York Dolls experimented with gender -- which was represented in a more fluid manner, wearing non-mainstream "punk" fashions -- and, of course, made great, inspiring music. The music and the manner in which they represented themselves were wildly creative, glamorous and spontaneous. The artists who I selected for Stardust have an element in their work of the exhilaration and the riotously creative energy of this music and time.

The artists selected also relate to lyrics from songs, theatrics on stage or by groupies, fashion from the time and the actual stage itself where the music was performed. David Bowie may be taking off any minute in his space ship to the stars and the New York Dolls could be part of some other worldly vagabond group of beautiful outsiders. Each artist in Stardust somehow personifies the joy, the beauty and the music in some manner.

Stardust can be grouped into a couple of smaller shows. The first grouping of images is subtitled "Stardust: The Magical Stage" and includes a blurry, drugged out color photo by John Morrison of backstage at CBGB. Jimmy DeSana's image of a floating, genderless body reminded me of Bowie flying away into outer space. Sarawut Chutiwongpeti's glittery installation of glowing lights and rows of columns would be a perfect stage to perform on, as it captures the other worldly nature of performance and ethos. David Wojnarowicz's work is a detail of a larger installation piece and, again, is a space for a mutinous performance that is riotous, messy and ecstatic all at once.

The second grouping of works is subtitled "Stardust: The Happening and the Importance of Style." This group of artists was either making work in NYC during that time or was actually capturing the scene itself. Others share a sensibility with the music, the style or energy of that time. A color photograph of Grace Jones in white face paint and red hair talking to Keith Haring by Juan Rivera and a photograph of Keith Haring in the Pop Shop in the late 80s capture the burst of creativity and intensity of the time. Works by Bern Boyle, Jose Luis Cortes and Mark Morrisroe capture the punk stylishness of the time with immense hair, numerous tattoos and men who are both very masculine and very feminine at once. Images by Derek Jackson ("Darrell: The Armory Show," "First Timer"), Max Greenberg, Hunter Reynolds and Albert Winn are playful and sometimes melancholy depictions of individuals at parties after the concert and perhaps behind the stage flirting and being watched and desired. David Abbott, John Morrison and Yolanda capture glamorous individuals being playful and showing rapturous aspects of the music, the scene and the time.

Bowie and the Dolls, through their performances and music, made it seem that anything and everything was possible. Even space travel was possible and perhaps this represented a location where one could occupy a different and more magical world. In some manner, all the artists in Stardust depict this magic and the creative energy of the time and the music.

b i o g r a p h y

Leah Oates is an artist and an independent curator living in New York. Oates has a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, a Fulbright Fellowship for study in the United Kingdom and an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Oates recently curated "Dark Nature: Part 1 & 2" and upcoming exhibitions include "Reconstruction," "States of Longing" and "Locations of Elsewhere" at Chashama Gallery in Time Square and Harlem. Oates has also curated exhibitions and projects in New York with NURTUREart Gallery, The Organization of Independent Artists, Artists Space and The Kaufmann Arcade (a satellite space for A Taste of Art Gallery); and curated exhibitions in Chicago at the Peace Museum, Randolph Street Gallery, Woman Made Gallery and Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Oates writes for NY Arts Magazine and has written for AC: Collaborative, an online arts journal.

As an artist, Oates has exhibited in over 80 group shows and 10 solo shows, both nationally and internationally. Her works on paper and books are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, MoMA, Franklin Furnace Archive, Yale University Art Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Modern in London.


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