Haunted and Whole

Curated by Jesse Bandler Firestone


Artists: Bern Boyle, Jimmy De Sana, Daniel McKernan, Marlon Riggs, Laurie Simmons, Kiyan Williams


Location: Pfizer Building, 630 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206

Opening reception: April 18, 2019, 6:30-9:30 pm

Exhibition dates: April 18-May 8, 2019


VISUAL AIDS Online at www.visualaids.org/gallery

April 1 - April 30, 2019


To schedule an appointment to view the exhibition, please contact Jesse Firestone at macp@sva.edu


Haunted and Whole is an exhibition bringing together a group of living artists who intentionally channel or have been directly influenced by late queer artists from the past. Each artist alive today—Daniel McKernan (b. 1981), Kiyan Williams (b. 1992), and Laurie Simmons (b. 1949)—is exhibited alongside their deceased counterpart: Bern Boyle (d.1992), Marlon Riggs (d.1994), and Jimmy De Sana (d.1990), respectively.


The exhibition seeks to harness the power of art in communicating across generations, but also to aggressively approach queer histories constantly at risk of being obscured by heterocentric narratives. Boyle, Riggs, and Desana all died of AIDS-related illnesses that decimated two generations of queer communities.


Each living artist in the exhibition is connected to their deceased counterpart in different yet overlapping ways including artistic affinities, personal identity and lived experience, or mentorship. The exhibition asks: How might revealing these linkages between the living and the dead begin to establish a type of queer ancestry? Despite not achieving lasting, mainstream prominence, the artworks made by Boyle, Riggs, and Desana still resonate today. It is these lingering ripples in consciousness that impress the need to further historicize their practices today.


A version of this exhibition will be on view throughout April as part of Visual AIDS’s online web gallery.


Bern Boyle (b. 1951, d. 1992) was a photographer, mail artist, curator, filmmaker, educator, and entrepreneur. For Haunted and Whole, curator Jesse Firestone reproduced two of Boyle’s deeply sentimental and politically charged postcards, New York Doesn’t <3 Me! and What Price Mistakes? Boyle, virtually unknown today, founded Frameline, now known as The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, and Giovanni's Room in Philadelphia, the nation’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore.


Jimmy De Sana (b. 1949, d. 1990), a key figure in the East Village punk scene, was lauded for his portraits of peers and psychedelic photographs revealing a sensual underbelly to the sterile and well-manicured ideals of suburban life, both of which are on display as digital reproductions within the exhibition. His photographs of gay cult filmmaker Kenneth Anger and well known homosexual writer William Burroughs, among others, anchor De Sana within a long line of significant queer figures. His estate is cared for by Laurie Simmons and he is currently represented by Salon 94.


Daniel McKernan (b. 1981) is a New York-based artist and filmmaker. Upon receiving an invitation to participate in the 2013 exhibition NOT OVER: 25 Years of Visual AIDS, curated Kris Nuzzi and Sur Rodney, which brought artists active during the 1980s in conversation with artists born after 1970, McKernan began researching artists who died of AIDS at NYU’s Fales Library. Finding affinities with Boyle’s practice, McKernan created a video, Acts of Senseless Beauty, using Boyle’s archival material. For Haunted and Whole, McKernan will exhibit another version of Acts of Senseless Beauty.


Marlon Riggs (b. 1957, d. 1994) was a filmmaker and essayist whose work and research focused on the intersections of black-male subjectivity, homosexuality, and the portrayal of black men in the media. He is known for a distinct style of documentary filmmaking that combined personal footage with archival materials, dance or movement gestures, spoken word or poetry, and music. Tongues Untied, arguably Riggs’ most well-known film aired on PBS to critical acclaim. Despite being well-known during his life, Riggs had fallen into obscurity outside of a few niche communities. Recently, however, there has been a renewed interest in Riggs’ practice. In 2019, BAM celebrated the 30th anniversary of Tongues Untied with a series of public programs including “Under the Influence”, a screening of shorts by artists who site Riggs as an inspiration. Riggs’s film Tongues Untied, as well as a compilation of his short films, will be on view throughout the run of the show.


Laurie Simmons (b. 1949) is an American photographer and filmmaker whose practice is anchored in a feminist stance that combines the visual language of fashion and marketing, tropes of girlhood, and everyday objects to both reflect and challenge the myth of female domesticity. Simmons considers her friend Jimmy Desana, who taught her how to develop her own film, a mentor. The first photographs in her “Walking Objects” series are entitled Walking Camera (Jimmy), made in honor of Desana. Simmons’ Walking Camera portraits of Jimmy Desana, as well as other works, will be on display as digital reproductions. Simmons is the executor of Desana’s estate and is also represented by Salon 94.


Kiyan Williams (b. 1993) is a multidisciplinary artist from New Jersey who is currently in their last year in Columbia University’s MFA Program. Their work is self-described as “autoethnographic” in its combination of archival research, community engagement, and Black feminist thought to speak about their lived experiences as a gender non-conforming person of color. While an undergraduate student at Stanford University, Williams began spending time with Marlon Riggs’ archives and has since developed a series of ongoing performances that simultaneously honor and critique Riggs’s legacy. Photographs, documentation, and ephemera from their performances will be on view during the exhibition.


Image: Alt(e)ar, performance by Kiyan Williams, installation by Aya Rodriguez-Izumi. Photo by Heather Kresge.

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MA Curatorial Practice 
School of Visual Arts

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Tel: 212.592.2274
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Email: macp@sva.edu