Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



ART Jonathan D. Katz previews his upcoming 'First Homosexuals' exhibit
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 2436 times since Sat Sep 17, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Activist, art historian, educator and writer Jonathan D. Katz's new exhibit, "The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930," will be available to see at Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood Ave., on Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 1 through Dec. 17.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, Wrightwood 659 is a private, non-collecting institution focused on socially engaged art and architecture. Katz's exhibition is presented by Alphawood Exhibitions, an Alphawood Foundation affiliate, at Wrightwood 659.

"The First Homosexuals is an international project of an incredible scale, which perfectly fulfills our mission of presenting novel, socially engaged exhibitions," said Alphawood Foundation Chicago Executive Director Chirag G. Badlani, himself a member of the LGBTQ+ community. "We are thrilled that the community can experience an important exhibition like this at Wrightwood 659—given the content, it otherwise might not be seen."

Katz is currently a University of Pennsylvania Art History and Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Associate Professor of Practice. He previously served as Yale University's Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies executive coordinator, City College of San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Studies department chair and University of New York at Stony Brook Art History Department associate professor where he also taught queer studies.

While living in Chicago, Katz was involved in the queer politics of the time, including the effort to get a human-rights ordinance for gay men and lesbians passed in the city. He founded The Gay and Lesbian Town Meeting group in Chicago to work on getting that ordinance passed, which happened a decade later. Katz also worked for then-Mayor Harold Washington on queer issues.

Additionally, Katz was the first person to achieve tenured status in the United States in the field of LGBTQ studies. He also founded the Harvey Milk Institute and College Art Association's Queer Caucus for Art as well as co-founded Queer Nation San Francisco and was the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco's first artistic director.

When asked what other exhibits he has spearheaded, Katz said the most important one was "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture."

"This was the first major museum queer exhibition in the United States," said Katz. "That was at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in 2010. Republicans attacked it and it became a national cause celeb because they wanted to censor a work by David Wojnarowicz that was featured in the exhibition because they claimed it was anti-Catholic." (Editor's note: Katz also curated "About Face: Stonewall, Revolt, and New Queer Art" at Wrightwood 659 in 2019.)

Now Katz is returning to Wrightwood 659 with this new, first-of-its-kind, LGBTQ+-focused exhibit. He decided to focus on the years 1869-1930 because the word "homosexual" was first used in 1869 to define gay and lesbian people, hence his exhibit title choice.

Katz told Windy City Times that being defined as a homosexual "was both a gift and a problem" for queer people during those years, depending on how the word affected their daily lives. For some, it clarified who they were and that was a benefit to them while for others their sexual possibilities were limited otherwise people would define them as a homosexual.

"The reason this is important is previously same-sex desire was understood not as a noun but as a verb," said Katz. "It was something you did, not something you are. What we are trying to do is assess what happens after the identity category was created and a group of people fell under that name. The important theoretical point I am trying to make is that as language grew increasingly strict and binary, the menu of sexual and gender possibilities that was open to everybody grew increasingly constricted. What resulted out of that is as language became increasingly impoverished regarding sexuality and gender, art took up the slack. Art started to represent all sorts of sexual possibilities that language could no longer understand or name."

More than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and film clips from queer artists or of queer subjects of portraiture will encompass an entire floor at Wrightwood.

"These works will be looked at not just in the Euro-American frame, but in a global frame," said Katz. "We are also assessing how, for example, following the lines of colonial domination European ideas were imposed over more local sexual definitions and names. What we have really is the first imaging of the first homosexuals. What is remarkable about this is some of these are among the most famous paintings among the most famous painters in their respective regions, but they have not been gathered under this rubric. The images are known, they just have not been interpreted in this way."

Some of the works that will be on display include "Salutat," by Thomas Eakins, which Katz argues is "one of the most homosexual of paintings;" what is believed to be one of Gerda Wegener's first trans paintings of her transgender/intersex spouse Lili Elbe, Sarah Bernhardt et Louise Abbéma sur le lac au Bois de Boulogne by Abbema; and the most famous Russian queer artist, Konstantin Somov, who sketched Cecile de Volanges in 1917 with his face melded into hers.

Katz and his associate curator/graduate student Johnny Willis teamed with 23 international scholars to put this exhibit together.

"This show resolutely demonstrates that we, as queer people, have a history, too—a rich, complex history that has been left out of the prevailing accounts of art history," said Willis. "Too often we hear the accusation that queer, trans, and non-binary identities are something 'new,' and thus something without a history. The exhibition shuts down any such allegation, resurfacing this 'lost' generation of modern LGBTQ ancestry."

One of the scholars is a Russian expert, Pavel Golubev, who had to flee the country due to his queer-focused work. Golubev moved to Ukraine and took a job as the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum curator until the war began early this year.

"I got very nervous that Pavel was going to get killed so I arranged through academic networks to get the scholar at risk program activated at the University of Pennsylvania," said Katz. "Pavel was approved and is now a Department of Art History visiting research scholar at the University."

"In the fall of 2020, Jonathan invited me to be a part of his scholars' team," said Golubev. "I thought it was an excellent opportunity to generalize a significant mass of paintings, drawings and sculptures that referred to the themes of same-sex desire. The queer art history of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and former Middle Asian Soviet republics has yet to be written. It was complicated to imagine maintaining such research in Russia, where I lived at that moment, because the results would hardly be visible there, especially in the form of the exhibition.

"At the same time, I believed that these artworks, generally unknown to the common public, could be curious to the global audience interested in the theme of homosexuality in art. We expect to bring seven works from the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum collection to this upcoming exhibit, despite all the complications of wartime."

Another, more comprehensive, Katz-curated LGBTQ-focused exhibit will take place at Wrightwood 659 in 2025 featuring 250 masterworks. The reason for both exhibits is because most major museums have slowed or stopped their lending programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so he was unable to get all the works he wanted for this current exhibit.

"The 2025 exhibition will be utterly revelatory and take up all three floors of the Wrightwood 659," said Katz. "It is going to be one of the largest queer exhibitions ever mounted and will bring in work from over 70 countries. It is one of the few places you will see Uzbek queer art from the early 20th century."

Katz said the upcoming show is vital because sexuality is still an "unspoken category in museum exhibitions" even though it is depicted everywhere in the artworld. He urged the museum world to "get on the ball and start [focusing] to this."

"I think this exhibition will begin to open up or underscore the way in which our language of binaries is way too delimited and poor of frame to understand the complexities of human behavior," said Katz. "What this show does, and what art is great at because it does not have to use language, is depict all these variations. You will see therefore a range of possibilities of gender and sexual desire that our language does not have words for."

Note: Wrightwood 659 requires all staff and guests to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Visitors will be required to show proof of vaccination and booster via their official vaccine card or a photo of that card along with a matching photo ID. Any individual who does not meet these requirements will not be permitted to enter the building. Children who are not fully vaccinated or who are ineligible for vaccination cannot be admitted to the building. Masks will continue to be required throughout the gallery; read the rules at .

Note: this exhibition contains sexually explicit content and is for mature audiences only.

The gallery's hours of operation are Fridays from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $15 per person tickets for this exhibit must be purchased in advance and online only at Walk-ups will not be permitted.

This article shared 2436 times since Sat Sep 17, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Through a queer lens: Photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya discusses Chicago exhibition
Paul Mpagi Sepuya is a photographer whose works incorporate several elements, including history, literary modernism and queer collaboration. The art of Sepuya—who is also an associate professor in visual arts ...

Gay News

Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison announces inaugural Cook County LGBTQ+ Youth Art Competition
--From a press release - Schaumburg, Ill. — April 9, 2024 — Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison recently announced the firs ever LGBTQ+ Youth Art Competition. The competition's theme is "Pride is Power!" and will set the ton for Pride celebrations ...

Gay News

Open Space Arts's COCK offers a complex but compelling take on relationships
By Brian Kirst - Premiering in 2009, Mike Bartlett's COCK was a comic revelation, exploring notions about fluidity and sexual labelling long before they became commonplace discussions. Granted, conversations about these issues will always ...

Gay News

City Lit Executive Artistic Director Brian Pastor talks theater, comics, queerness
City Lit Theater has announced its programming for the 2024-25 season—which will be the company's 44th. It will also be the first season to be programmed under the leadership of Brian Pastor (they/them), who will assume ...

Gay News

Jamie Barton brings nuances of identity to her Lyric Opera 'Aida' performance
Chicago's Lyric Opera is currently featuring a production of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida starring Michelle Bradley as Aida, Jamie Barton as Amneris and Russell Thomas as Radamès. The opera runs through April 7, 2024, with Francesca Zambello ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Lady Gaga, 'P-Valley,' Wendy Williams, Luke Evans, 'Queer Eye,' 'Transition'
Lady Gaga came to the defense of Dylan Mulvaney after a post with the trans influencer/activist for International Women's Day received hateful responses, People Magazine noted. On Instagram, Gaga stated, "It's appalling to me that a ...

Gay News

Chicago History Museum announces "Designing for Change: Chicago Protest Art of the 1960s - 70s exhibition
--From a press release - CHICAGO (March 14, 2024) — The Chicago History Museum is thrilled to announce its upcoming exhibition, "Designing for Change: Chicago Protest Art of the 1960s—70s." Set to open on Saturday, May 18, 2024, this exhibition is ...

Gay News

Women's History Month doesn't do enough to lift up Black lesbians
Fifty years ago, in 1974, the Combahee River Collective (CRC) was founded in Boston by several lesbian and feminist women of African descent. As a sisterhood, they understood that their acts of protest were shouldered by ...

Gay News

Center on Halsted celebrates Dreams of Drag
On March 9, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., in partnership with the Ralla Klepak Foundation, presented the Dreams of Drag Spring Cohort Class of 2024. The event featured performances from a class of new ...

Gay News

SAVOR Eldridge Williams talks new concepts, Beyonce, making history
One restaurant would be enough for most people to handle. However, this year Eldridge Williams is opening two new concepts—including one that will be the first Black-owned country-and-western bar in the Midwest. Williams, an ally of ...

Gay News

SAVOR Let's Talk Womxn's 'More Than March'; Adobo Grill's tequila dinner
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a culinary event that celebrates the achievement of women—and, fittingly, it happened during Women's History Month. On March 1, Let's Talk Womxn Chicago held its annual "More Than ...

Gay News

Without compromise: Holly Baggett explores lives of iconoclasts Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap
Jane Heap (1883-1964) and Margaret Anderson (1886-1973), each of them a native Midwesterner, woman of letters and iconoclast, had a profound influence on literary culture in both America and Europe in the early 20th Century. Heap ...

Gay News

Center on Halsted hosts 6th Annual Intergenerational Talent Show
On the evening of Feb. 29, Center on Halsted held its 6th Annual Intergenerational Talent Show in front of a packed audience at the Hoover-Leppen Theater. The event brought together participants of the Center's youth and senior ...

Gay News

Anti-LGBTQ+ Republican McConnell to step down from leading U.S. Senate
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will step down from Senate leadership in November, having served in that capacity longer than any senator in history, The Advocate noted. McConnell has been a senator since 1985 and has ...

Gay News

ELECTIONS 2024 Raymond Lopez talks congressional run, Chuy Garcia, migrant crisis
Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez has been a member of City Council since 2015, representing the 15th Ward and making history as one of the city's first LGBTQ+ Latine alderman. Now, he is setting his sights on ...


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.