Savannah Camastro

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As pride month begins, El Sótano, a Bushwick-based gallery, is taking the initiative to commemorate the spirit of Stonewall’s 50th anniversary with their exhibition, Queer Revolutions: The Body as Terrain of Insurrection, opening on June 7. Curator Julio Alejandro Rodriguez brings together nine artists whose work embody the perseverance and strength of the queer community. Open for nearly two months, Queer Revolutions serves as not only an art exhibition, but a place for conversation about queer history.

“The main goal of this exhibition, which will be our longest running to date, is to showcase the many ways a revolution can happen,” Rodriguez told Bushwick Daily. “Whether it be through a protest on the street with action painting like Aine’s work​ Chillona (2019)​, through dance and subverting hetero-patriarchy as Bartolina does in her piece ​Ramita Seca (2019), ​or through public intervention with queer sex as Adriana does in their piece ​Cracks in Civilized Landscapes (2013), all of the artists and their works express and live in the spirit of revolution.”

On June 28, 1969, the NYPD raided Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay club. The raid was followed by a week of riots and protests against law enforcement in the area. In the 1960s, Stonewall was an important landmark in the Village for the LGBTQ+ community, serving as a place of refuge for drag queens, homeless, and gay youth. Since the riots, the month of June has been dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ people and their continuous perseverance to maintain their freedom as an oppressed group.

Though Queer Revolutions does not directly address the riots of Stonewall, it captures the spirit of resistance still exhibited by the LGBTQ+ community today. “The artists in the show are all people, whose work not only continues to keep the spirit of our queer ancestors alive, who fought to give us liberation, but how they live their everyday lives maintains this spirit of resistance,” Rodriguez said. “We are excited to start conversations about other important queer historical moments that are decentralized from U.S. history.”

Given Bushwick’s large Latinx community, Rodriguez is using Queer Revolutions as an opportunity to to exhibit queer latinx artists, many of which have never shown in New York before. “We believe that it is important to open doors that have been opened for us to others,” Rodriguez told Bushwick Daily.

According to a 2014 report on hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, “15 percent of homicide victims were Latinx. Additionally, Latinx survivors of hate violence were 1.7 times more likely to experience police violence than non-Hispanics.”

As an art space, El Sótano aims to serve as a place of conversation. Past events and exhibitions have been centered around important social and political issues such as addressing the immigrant crisis happening at the border in Tijuana, as well as artist conversations with Kevin Quiles and Jean-Michael Vissepó about decolonization through art. “We are interested in people that are addressing issues that are relevant through creative ways,” Rodriguez said.

Queer Revolutions is equally important to Rodriguez’s personal story as a member of the Latinx queer community, as it is for keeping the memory of Stonewall alive. “I personally am excited to start conversations about how we can enact a resistance in our daily lives. It is something that I have been doing in my own life for a while now, my tattoos and how I dress is a way of rebellion and resistance,” he explained. “Every time I put on a skirt and heels and leave my house, there is always a lingering trace of fear in me, but hiding who I am is no longer an option for me.”

Throughout the course of the exhibition, El Sótano is also hosting a slew of events to commemorate and celebrate Bushwick’s LGBTQ+ community, including two short film screenings on June 21 and July 5, a poetry and literature night on July 12, a dance film night on July 19, and a closing reception party with a performance on July 27. Queer Revolutions: The Body as Terrain of Insurrection opens this Friday, June 7, at 6 p.m. with a special performance at 8 p.m. For more information, you can go to the event’s Facebook page or the gallery’s Instagram.

Images courtesy of El Sótano. Cover photo portrait of Julio Alejandro Rodriguez.

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