Walker Art Gallery
Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity
This exhibition was put on by the Walker Art Gallery as a commemoration of 50 years since the partial decriminalization of male homosexual acts in England and Wales. This brought together a collection of artists including Grayson Perry, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon, with over 80 pieces, that explore sexuality and gender identity.
The title; Coming Out, I found perfectly described the nature of the exhibition. Although the 1967 Sexual Offences Act only partially decriminalized homosexuality (for men), it did signify a moment where LGBT people could increasingly ‘Come Out.’ This is shown through the vibrancy and diversity of the exhibition. However, the joy of new freedoms is contrasted with portrayals of moments of struggle for LGBT people that is a significant part of LGBT history.
The exhibition also uses the work of artists such as David Hockney, Steve McQueen and Sarah Lucas to represent LGBT history in the UK. The collection of artists and their work blended humour and resilience with darker subject matter such as HIV and AIDs, creating a truly thought-provoking exhibition.
The art included in the exhibition was wonderfully diverse in its use of media, with paintings, sculpture and several videos, and in the aspects of queer culture, it explored. I found many of the pieces poignant and even painful, such as Derek Jarman’s Morphine, with its dramatic use of deep reds and browns.
The darker works often explored the discrimination and alienation of LGBT people through recent British history, including the HIV/AIDS crisis. One short film particularly stands out; depicting a man slowly and disturbingly being coated in large, colourful viruses until he is no longer able to move. The slightly campy, flamboyant colours made for an odd juxtaposition with the subject matter, that somehow made the piece more distressing. The graphic nature of the film, however, importantly brings home a sense of hopelessness at the diagnosis of a disease that was not yet treatable.
Essential as it is to discuss the struggles the LGBT community have faced not so long ago, and perhaps continue to face today, I found much of this exhibition uplifting in its tenderness and sense of community. Many of Hockey’s works depicted tender, loving moments between men, specifically his boyfriend. The numerous depictions of intimate moments provided a sense of normality, a relatability to those within and outside the LGBT community. In essence, the artworks show love in a beautifully human way.
Overall, I thought this exhibition, whilst at moments moving, in its diverse and colourful range of art illustrated the recent history of an equally colourful, diverse and inclusive community, with a significance to all, not just LGBT people.
Although Coming Out has now finished in Liverpool, it is continuing to tour the UK with its next stop at Birmingham’s Museum & Art Gallery from the 2nd of December until the 15th of April 2018.
Review by Eve Seymour