2020 has seen the reimagining of Gay Pride events all over the world since the first parade in 1970, one year following the Stonewall uprising. As the public health protocols surrounding COVID-19 seem to evolve daily, many Pride events that were initially canceled have been reconfigured into a virtual format, creating a near-global celebration that crosses borders, cultures and languages that our bodies cannot. Larry Kramer, a famously vocal and key player in ACT UP and beyond during the ongoing AIDS epidemic, died the night the protests against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd began. The intersections of gay liberation and racial injustice all over the world were brought into stark focus, and many queer-led movements rightly shifted their focus to joining the ongoing protests led by Black Lives Matter.
Indeed, the first Gay Pride gatherings emerged in response to violent and oppressive treatment of people who identified as gay, lesbian, queer and transgender. Following a chain of uprisings including Cooper’s Donuts and the Black Cat in Los Angeles to the Stonewall Inn in New York, LGBTQ+ organizations began celebrating what came to be known as Gay Pride. These celebrations were a way to step out in force in order to claim a positive space of pride and resilience. Over the years, as advancements in acceptance of the LGBTQ+ population into mainstream culture have taken hold, the public face of Gay Pride celebrations has changed, too. Many corporations have visibly supported the causes that many queer people have pushed forward. In doing so, Gay Pride parades now include brand-name floats: airlines, alcohol manufacturers, banks, insurance companies, clothing brands. In response to what many see as a “pinkwashing” of LGBTQ+ culture, offshoots of queer people have spawned parallel celebrations, attempting to highlight the challenges still faced by many LGBTQ+ people, specifically queer communities of color. Others simply desire to return to the roots of what Gay Pride stood for in its early days. Furthermore, many members of the LGBTQ+ community do not see themselves reflected in the mainstream representation of Pride.
For the first time this summer, we are indeed in a “post-pride” moment. Mainstream Gay Pride events and these parallel visibility-raising offshoots alike are affected by the absence of social gatherings. Visibility for queer people for this summer’s Pride moved to online platforms and social media, calling on artists and writers to disseminate their work across virtual platforms instead of the streets. Furthermore, as many celebrations have actively embraced and uplifted the Black Lives Matter movement, Pride itself has expanded. In this sense, “post pride” takes on different meaning. For example, what was once a debate about reimagining the Pride flag to include colors to represent trans and queer People of Color now seems to be widely accepted as necessary – it appears that the Gay Pride flag has changed for good.
Post Pride marks the first exhibition for many of the artists featured here since quarantine. The show was conceived before COVID-19 hit, and quarantine seemed to make its themes all the more relevant. As we neared the deadline for submissions, George Floyd was killed and another series of submissions came in. The nine artists featured in the show reflect myriad meditations on queerness and Pride with a particular focus for some on social and racial issues, highlighting the intersectional themes that Pride has come to represent.
From archival work that has found new relevance to new works produced since the pandemic, the artists here represented rose to a call of considering when and how we can reimagine a world amidst COVID-19 during – and after – Pride, forever intertwined with our country’s pandemic of racism. The visual appearance of Pride – and how these artists have found ways to display it – has changed drastically over the last months, and these artists’ depictions of self and others offer a gesture toward how we all might emerge from quarantine, in solidarity, toward a common – and possible – future.
- Ben Evans
curator and director, ace/121 Gallery
ace/121 Gallery does not collect any commission from the sales of artwork. All sales agreements take place between artist and buyer, with 100% of sales going directly to the artist. The gallery can help facilitate communication, but is not responsible for any part of the sales agreement.