Laura Aguilar, Will Work For #4, 1993.

FINDING RESILIENCE IN LAURA AGUILAR

In honor of Pride Month, curatorial assistant Kelly Long reflects on a favorite work in the Museum’s collection.

I’m thinking about the creativity and perseverance of artists like Laura Aguilar, whose entrance into the Whitney’s collection last year brought me so much joy. Known for photographing the lesbian Chicana community in East Los Angeles, and for drawing connections between her body and the landscape through nude self-portraits in the desert, Aguilar is here, too, thinking through ideas of connection, alienation, and systemic exclusion.

As a large-bodied, Chicana, working-class, lesbian woman, Aguilar struggled to gain access to much of the art world in her lifetime. In Will Work For #4, she stands in front of a concrete edifice marked “GALLERY,” asserting herself as an artist, resolute in protest. A misspelling of “access” (likely intentional) also serves to highlight the artist’s dyslexia and underscore the photographic image as Aguilar’s preferred way of raising her voice and being heard.

Do I belong? Do we belong? We are here, and we belong! When I look at Aguilar’s photographs, I hear her, loud and clear. They’re vulnerable and questioning, declarative and joyous, all at once and all together. In our moment of profound uncertainty, and economic struggle for many, Aguilar’s work is teaching me resilience.

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UPCOMING ONLINE EVENTS

Catherine Opie, Dyke, 1992, printed 1993.

ART HISTORY FROM HOME

Thursday, June 25, at 12 pm
Tuesday, June 30, at 6 pm

These thirty-minute talks by the Whitney’s Joan Tisch Teaching Fellows highlight works in the Museum’s collection to illuminate critical topics in American art. Join us for upcoming talks exploring queer belonging and Asian American perspectives.

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Wu Tsang, DAMELO TODO (Give Me Everything), 2010–11.

WHITNEY SCREENS

Friday, June 26, at 7 pm

Engage with video art from the Museum’s collection while you’re at home with Whitney Screens. This week’s screening will present Wu Tsang’s DAMELO TODO (Give Me Everything), a semi-fictional film set in the Silver Platter, a Latinx queer bar in Los Angeles.

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DJ SHYBOI. Photograph by Filip Wolak

PRIDE MONTH DJ SET

Friday, June 26, at 8 pm

To celebrate Pride, the Whitney is excited to work with New York-based music collective Discwoman to bring you a live DJ set by SHYBOI. Join on Instagram Live to celebrate the role electronic music has played in bringing queer communities together across regions and generations.

LEARN MORE

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: THE IMPACT OF AIDS ON QUEER ART

Installation view of David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, July 13–September 30, 2018).

DAVID WOJNAROWICZ: HISTORY KEEPS ME AWAKE AT NIGHT

Hear from artists, curators, and scholars as they muse on the work of David Wojnarowicz, whose work documents and illuminates the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

LISTEN NOW

Still from "Zoe Leonard in Conversation with Elisabeth Lebovici," 2018

ZOE LEONARD IN CONVERSATION WITH ELISABETH LEBOVICI

Artist Zoe Leonard and critic Elisabeth Lebovici explore their intersecting practices and mutual histories, reflecting on the 2018 exhibition Zoe Leonard: Survey and Lebovici’s book Ce que le sida m’a fait (What AIDS Has Done to Me).

WATCH NOW

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#WHITNEYFROMHOME ON INSTAGRAM

Alvin Baltrop, Marsha P. Johnson, n.d. 1975–1986
There would be no Pride Month if it weren’t for Marsha P. Johnson—a Black trans woman, artist and performer, activist, and advocate who for decades railed against police brutality and the discrimination and marginalization faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Johnson was a pivotal figure in the June 1969 uprising following the violent police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar, and in the civil rights movement that subsequently emerged. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and cofounder, with Sylvia Rivera, of the radical Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, two activist groups that demanded social justice and economic equality for queer people. She questioned traditional notions of gender identity long before “transgender” became part of the lexicon. And she marched with ACT UP at a time when the U.S. government refused to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic, which had already claimed more than 250,000 lives before Johnson’s death in 1992.

In photographing Johnson, Alvin Baltrop documented an encounter between two Black queer artists, each of whom faced systemic racism and homophobia while modeling lives of radical self-determination.

Baltrop’s most enduring subjects were the piers on Manhattan’s west side, spaces now largely gone that were once just steps from where the Whitney now stands. Abandoned by industry, they were reclaimed by queer people as sites for sunbathing, sex, artmaking, and gathering.

His photographs document a community of people who fought for empowerment in part by seizing these public spaces—a reminder for Pride Month as well as this moment of uprising where we mourn and fight against the murder of Black trans Americans, including Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, and Nina Pop, and the many more who should still be with us today.

FOLLOW ALONG

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SUPPORT THE WHITNEY

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AAQ / Resource: Weshtampton Architectural Glass

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