The AGO’s Fan The Flames show includes The Quartette, an archival photo of cross-dressers.
FAN THE FLAMES: QUEER POSITIONS IN PHOTOGRAPHY at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), to September 7. $19.50, srs $16, stu $11, free Wednesdays 6 to 8:30 pm. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNN
Striking a pose for the camera has always been a potent strategy for gender outlaws. Sophie Hackett curates three rooms of mostly unfamiliar images from the AGO's collection and elsewhere that track the queer sensibility from the early 20th century to the present. Here are some personal faves from Hackett's large and well-selected exhibition, which includes private albums and magazine collections as well as photos and videos by major artists.
Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan's In The Life magazine could pass for a vintage issue of Life with its black-and-white photo spread that hilariously chronicles A Day In The Life Of A Bull Dyke. The big bald woman totes around sides of beef for her day job as a butcher before heading out to meet the gals on the streets of Winnipeg.
Duet, a video by Nina Levitt, consists of one visual, the torso of a person buttoning and unbuttoning a white shirt. But the soundtrack, on which female voices recount six histories from different eras of women who passed as men, links the show's early cross-dressing found photos with contemporary expressions of trans identity.
A photo by Mikalene Thomas depicts an African-American woman in a classic reclining pose in a room Thomas has decorated with colourful collage of 70s vintage textiles, a queer reconfiguration of both the male gaze and the blaxploitation era.
Fan The Flames introduced me to Mark Morrisroe, a wild boy cut down young by AIDS whose work prefigures contemporary appropriation art, and Alice O'Malley, whose edgy black-and-white portraits of gender-bending New York scenesters cross the border of fashion and art.
What could be more of-the-moment than the Relationship series by Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, a couple who document their simultaneous transitions, Drucker from male to female and Ernst from female to male? If you can't make it to the AGO, catch their slide show on Art in Transit's subway screens until June 29.