The Getty Goes Gay: Cruising the Archives
BY Phil Tarley
January 20 2012 5:00 AM ET
My favorite work in “Cruising the Archive” is John Quitman’s Homage to Jean Genet, part of “Wink Wink.” A beefy 49-by-61-inch canvas, painted in 1971, Homage is a deliciously madcap, surreal painting with enough fanciful phallus under skirt, pert and painterly nipples, and ample arse to please any irreverent purveyor of gay or lesbian art. The reference to Genet, an intellectual touchstone of that era, and the bawdiness and playfulness of the painting seem to embody the delightful nature of the entire show.
David Frantz, who curated “Cruising the Archive” along with Mia Locks, says, “I hope that visitors to the exhibition are intrigued by the materials on view, and possibly even interested in learning more. ‘Cruising the Archive’ was intended … as a springboard … a public engagement with the archives’ vast collections.”
I have often wondered, just how vast is One’s vast hoard? According to treasurer and financial adviser Carol A. Grosvenor, One, the largest collection of LGBT materials in the world, has 4,000 works of art; 3,000 posters; 2,200 films; 500,000 photographs; 23,000 books (of which 3,000 are rare or one-of-a kind titles), and hundreds of thousands of files of ephemera. “Cruising the Archive” offers a rare, breathtaking peek at One’s holdings
Frantz notes, “Whenever possible we wanted … to present artworks alongside archival materials from the social or historical context of their production, artworks in dialogue with the larger archival collections at One.”
Sidney Bronstein’s sweet-sexy paintings of servicemen, which correspond to the artist’s personal “sex log” from the 1950s, are a perfect example of this contextualization and evoke the very special times chronicled in “Pacific Standard Time.”
“Pacific Standard Time” is the largest exhibition ever mounted by the Getty, which has partnered with more than 60 museums and galleries in Southern California to stage the ambitious project.
I ask Frantz about the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time” premise — that the era from 1945 to 1980 established a new vision, a bold imprint, and a new genre, that being Los Angeles modern art. I wonder how Frantz saw that reflected in the works and artists he chose to include in One’s show.