“Bring Your Own Body: Transgender Between Archives and Aesthetics,” currently on view at Glass Curtain Gallery at Columbia College, provides a multilayered experience by featuring works of contemporary transgender artists juxtaposed with archival materials to illustrate the multiplicity of transgender identities as they are represented in the art world, pop culture and institutional discourses. Named after an unpublished manuscript by intersex pioneer Lynn Harris, “Bring Your Own Body” blends historical documents and contemporary art to provide critical perspectives on the ongoing formation of transgender identities.
The exhibit, first presented at the Cooper Union in New York and co-curated by Jeanne Vaccaro and Stamatina Gregory, fuses contemporary and historical trends: Significant materials from the transgender archives at the Kinsey Institute—including photographs, personal correspondence, drawings, ephemera and print materials—are exhibited side-by-side with contemporary pieces of collage, sculpture, photography, film, textiles and installations. Responding to and informing one another, these works create dialogues between gender ideas of the past and the present, vastly contributing to one’s understanding of the transgender experience at large.
The show moves from the late Mark Aguhar’s extravagant garments and glittery posters that read “CUTTING OFF UR DICK JUST CUZ U FEEL LIKE IT” and “I’D RATHER BE BEAUTIFUL THAN MALE,” to rare publications such as the 1960s magazine Transvestia, to anonymous, black-and-white amateur photographs of gender nonconforming people to portraits of queer icon Flawless Sabrina by Diane Arbus and Andy Warhol. Chris Vargas’ “Transvestism Through the News” (2015), a printout assembled from trans-related headlines from decades past stacked in the gallery space—“Please, take one!”—and 1960s police mugshots of transgender women of color are just a few examples of the radical and fraught histories of trans identity and the social and artistic movements that define it in the present. Through “Bring Your Own Body,” Greer Lankton, Justin Vivian Bond, Flawless Sabrina, Juliana Huxtable, Effy Beth, Vaginal Davis, Chris Vargas and Zackary Drucker and more than sixteen other artists, assemble a new, alternative archive that not only celebrates queer identities but simultaneously provides a mindful insight into contemporary trans aesthetics. (Vasia Rigou)
Through February 13 at Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 South Wabash.
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently a Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition and Art Editor of Newcity. Formerly, he was Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.