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Queer Biennial: A “What if Utopia” Chat and Summer Exhibit

Notable Angelinos Join John Waters and Ruben Esparza, Founder of Queer Biennial, among Pro-LGBT International Artists at the Navel


Highlights of the 2018 Queer Biennial art exhibit opening reception in LA


Over 1100 guests attended the Queer Biennial art exhibit titled What if Utopia, an international survey of works by emerging, established, and iconic artists including Andy Warhol, Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Laura Aguilar highlighting themes of queer identities in the third installment of the Biennial’s showcase of film, art, and literature this June.

Art Show Exhibit

One theme explored in the Queer Biennial exhibit is the topic of becoming the subject of one’s own work. The acclaimed photographer Laura Aguilar, who recently passed away just weeks prior to the opening reception, did this by chronicling the lives and identities of marginalized people of color including herself throughout 30 years of work.

Her recent death was a major loss for the art community of the world. Her images were featured in exhibitions across the country including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum, Artpace in San Antonio, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and now at NAVEL as part of the Queer Biennial.

“We are the communities that we are trying to get together under one roof. The Queer Biennial touches on the spectrum: the generation gap, the ethnic gap, and folks from all over the world”, said Ruben Esparza, Founder of Queer Biennial.

Celebrated Israeli Photographer Add Nes, whose iconic photographic series have garnered worldwide acclaim, was a featured artist in the Biennial and was present at the opening.

Nes’ photographs are reminiscent of Renaissance or Baroque paintings, many of which are based on parables and collective cultural memory. He explores ideas of sexual tension and delves into complex surveys of homoeroticism highlighting universal humanism themes.

“My photographs feature well-known scenes from Art History and Western Civilization combined with personal experiences based on my life as a gay youth growing up in a small town on the periphery of Israeli society,” said Nes.

The Queer Biennial’s chief curator, Nicholas Alexander Miloš Mestas, made a concerted effort to represent queer identity perspectives from around the world, including the institution of a mini-focus on artists from Mexico City and Tel Aviv. Both Miloš Mestas and Esparza made several studio visits with artists in Mexico City during the planning period in the year leading up to the opening.

Andy Warhol

This exhibit also showcases work by the legendary Andy Warhol. His impact as a queer artist is far deeper and greater than his humble observation that “everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” His ferocious curiosity resulted in a prolific body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between a high and low culture that is truly reflected in this year’s exhibit.

“I did [meet], Andy Warhol and he was incredibly supportive. I met him [when] Pink Flamingos came out and he watched it and hid in the closet in the of the back of The Factory and he came over and said “make the same movie again” and offered to back Female Trouble,” Waters said. “He was very supportive of Divine and put Divine in the cover of Interview.

I get angry at all the people today that the longer he’s dead start dissing him and start taking credit for everything he did – but really without Andy, none of this would have happened.”

Honoring the Queer Rights Movement

The Queer Biennial is about the definitive moments in queer art, honoring the past, and acknowledging history’s shortcomings. What if Utopia is the product of those who fought through history and handed gays today the freedom of expression as seen at the exhibit.

“So how do you define success?” Charlotte, a member of the audience asked Waters. And without skipping a beat, he replies “Success is when you’re never around assholes.”

A true depiction of what a Queer Utopia looks like.

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