Visual AIDS Visual AIDS Visual AIDS 15h Annual Postcards From the Edge, January 25-27, 2013 The Body
Visual AIDS
Visual AIDS
  curator's statement june 2010 selection
      Visual AIDS

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
l o o k ,  y o u  s e e  m e
c u r a t o r :  p a u l  m p a g i  s e p u y a

Browsing the Visual AIDS archive, I was drawn to several artists' works that focused on men's representations of women and women's representations of men. Within the archive these were rather rare to come across and I wanted to bring several examples together and think about the connection and roles that each play for and towards each other in a queer or other marginalized positions.

There is documentation of public demonstrations and non-political moments: W. Benjamin Incerti's intimate photograph Untitled (1991), which captures the strength and emotion of two women embracing at an AIDS protest, and Vincent Cianni's photograph Dancing at Johnny's Birthday Party, Berry St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn (1997) of two teenage boys dancing together side-by-side with several boy-girl pairings. Incerti (1951-1993) was a Boston-based activist and photographer who worked to promote AIDS education and government awareness and Cianni is a photographer whose work includes life in pre-gentrified Williamsburg of the 1990s.

In David Wojnarowicz's Untitled from Sex Series (for Marion Scemama) (1988-89), he inserts an image of two women engaged in a sex act into a stock image of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge spans, making the private public, speaking to the personal and political urgency of the AIDS epidemic. The work questions what we look at and what we ignore of gay sex in mass culture, and the relationship between men and women in AIDS activism. And I am intrigued by Loreen Bryant, an older black woman who lives in New York, and her choice of young, white homoerotic subject matter and the matter-of-factness of the drawings she makes like Draws Pulling (2005) and Untitled (Exhaustion) (2005). I wonder what this religious mother and grandmother thinks about the focus on white male body in the promotion of AIDS, sexuality and health.

There are David Abbott's paintings, Rita (1996) and All Girls Together (1992) of gender-ambiguous "women"; Nelson Edwin Rodriguez' photograph Untitled (Self-Portrait) (1994) of himself posed flirtatiously competing with the gaze of the poster-girl staring at us from behind him; and Darrell Jones' drawing Women (1996) of three women modeling popular variations of the time's hair stylings. These charming and un-self-consciously honest works all speak to the queer spell that women cast over men.

Tara Popick's photographs are of anonymous figures: Untitled (1998) of a pregnant woman pulling her partner close as he kisses her belly, and Embrace (1997), a similarly composed image of a nude man looking down at the light touching his hands. There is an unquestioning openness in these images. Popick's work suggests a longing both in her subjects themselves and what she sees in them. In René Capone's drawing Prodigal Lover (2001) what might at first be taken as a young man's struggle (to whom or what has he returned?) may best be left open as we know not whether the lover from the title is the male or female, the sexuality therein, nor the nature of their embrace.

b i o g r a p h y

Paul Mpagi Sepuya is a Brooklyn-based artist working in photography, zines and video projects that have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Basel, Sydney, Toronto, Paris and Berlin. His work has been featured and reviewed in BUTT, Interview, Capricious, Paper and The New York Times, among others. A monograph of his work, Beloved Object and Amorous Subject, Revisited, was published by Envoy Enterprises, New York in 2008. He was recently featured in the New York City exhibitions 30 Seconds Off an Inch, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Compassion, at the Union Theological Seminary, curated by AA Bronson. Sepuya studied photography at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He will have an upcoming solo exhibition at Envoy Enterprises in New York City in September-October 2010 and is publishing a collaborative book project with artist Timothy Hull titled The Accidental Egyptian and Occidental Arrangements, out this summer. He was a 2009-2010 LMCC Workspace artist-in-residence and will be a summer artist-in-residence this June at the Center for Photography at Woodstock.


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