Gender Fluidity and Politics at the New Museum

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A major and timely exhibition at the New Museum, titled Trigger: Gender as a Tool and Weapon, brings together a diverse group of artists to explore gender and sexuality from a wide range of perspectives and positions. At a moment when the horizon of identity is broadening to include an expansive array of voices and bodies, there are also those forces who are trying to stimie these shifts in society.

The artists in the show, an intergenerational lot ranging in age from late-twenties to late-sixties, illustrate both the complexity of gender and the art that probes these questions. The title of the exhibition suggests the at-times controversial dialogue about the word “trigger,” which is used to describe the emotional response to hateful or traumatic speech or actions, but also comes with a variety of other meanings, from gun violence to the spurring of a new social movement. The show is not sticking to a single theme, medium, or message.

There’s Mickalene Thomas, the black female artist who is known for paintings that integrate rhinestones and both contemporary and pop sensibilities. Then there’s the transgendered biracial performance artist Vaginal Davis, whose abstract works in the exhibition are made with nail polish. Diamond Stingily’s very long braided sculpture meanders around the museum’s halls. Tschabalala Self’s fabric-based figuration work examines the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality.

Most of the artists in the show are LGBTQ-identified, but the art can’t be tagged with a simple or short description. From video work to poetic refrain, formal painting exercise to costumery, there’s a quality to the show that might be described as a tightly-knit mess. This is appropriate for an exhibition dealing with the complication of gender and sex, and the political upheaval that’s a central part of this complication.

At Trigger, a multiplicity of perspectives are present, illustrating the many dimensions of the conversation surrounding who, and what, we are.

Trigger: Gender as a Tool and Weapon
Through January 21, 2018
New Museum
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

Rob Goyanes

Rob Goyanes

Rob Goyanes is a writer from Miami, Florida, now living in New York City. He has work forthcoming in the Paris Review Daily and Interview Mag.