Charting 50 years of non-binary, trans and intersex identities, this dazzling multi-media exhibition showcases nearly 40 artists from around the world – taking us from the punk rebels of downtown New York to the hijra community in Mumbai.
Led by many of the featured artists, curator Vincent Honoré approaches the concept of gender with irreverence, celebrating liberation and multiplicity. But for all the sparkle, razzmatazz and subversion on display, there’s no sidelining the darkness lurking in the space between genders.
Together the paintings, installations, sculptures, photography and films are a dizzying, seductive spectacle. Arranged in what the curator calls ‘a landscape of discovery’, different mediums from different decades spark off each other.
Installation view of Victoria Sin, A View from Elsewhere, Act 1, She Postures in Context (2018), in Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery. Copyright Victoria Sin, courtesy Hayward Gallery, 2019. Photo: Thierry Bal
You are greeted with a blast of drag, as Victoria Sin’s video installation A View from Elsewhere, Act 1, She Postures in Context projects a cabaret performance onto a sheet of fabric, filling the space with a vast red mouth, huge hair and impossible glamour.
On the walls beyond, Juliana Huxtable’s hypnotic self-portraits echo the fantastical potential of the body as a canvas. But instead of the exaggerated femme features of drag, Huxtable draws on science fiction for her mythical alter egos. Encompassing a majestic strength and intrinsic otherness, these beings offer alternate forms for the marginalised.
A room of photography is arranged playfully with candy-coloured partitions and mirrors, so your own face is reflected among the snapshots of queer and trans communities. Peter Hujar’s portraits of drag stars Ethyl Eichelberger and The Cockettes and transgender actress Candy Darling are punctuated with light-dappled close-ups of the Hudson river, literalising themes of fluidity.
LGBTGI spaces come to life in Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings’s video installation Something for the Boys. Cocooned in folds of shimmering lamé, the screen shifts between Blackpool’s Funny Girls cabaret club and Growlr gay sex bar. Elsewhere, the suffering behind the sequins of queer culture is encapsulated in Hunter Reynolds’s Memorial Dress where the names of 25,000 people who died of AIDS-related illnesses are printed in gold on a black taffeta ballgown.
Installation view of Martine Gutierrez, Indigenous Woman (2018), in Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Ryan Lee Gallery, New York. Photo: Thierry Bal
Some of the most playful highlights come from Martine Gutierrez, a trans Latinx artist who acts as muse, subject and creator. Like a 21st-century Frida Kahlo, Gutierrez explores how beauty standards and stereotypes work to enhance and subvert shifting identities. From masks of exotic fruit to demonic goddesses in indigenous dress, her portraits give oddity and irresolution a glossy, high-fashion finish.
Such glamour is offset with a few more overtly sexual images: Ajamu's photographic portraits depict kink with a frank tenderness, giving pornography cliches unexpected vigour, such as a bra stretched across the hunky muscled back of a bodybuilder; while Jimmy DeSana's photos give a more surreal perspective on sex, with bodies distorted in domestic settings.
The richness and diversity of the works on show are more than enough to absorb you, but it's the contradictions and conversations between them that are the most striking. In embracing the full spectrum of identities, the exhibition exposes the vast gamut of emotions such fluidity may trigger, from joy and exhibitionism to violence and vulnerability. The result is uplifting and utterly eye-opening.
|What||Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery review|
|Where||Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
12 Jun 19 – 08 Sep 19, 11am – 7pm. Closed Tuesdays.
|Website||Click here for more information|