Equal Affections: GRIMM Gallery Group Exhibition Channels the Great Novel of David Leavitt
Back in July Amsterdam's GRIMM Gallery opened Equal Affections, a group presentation borrowing its name from David Leavitt’s acclaimed 1988 novel, organized in collaboration and curated by Edwin Oostmeijer. Presenting works by some of the most exciting and respected painters working today, the show is likely to have his place in the art history books, especially because it was an Amsterdam debut for all the artists included. This is why we've decided to contribute to its legacy by featuring it only a few days after it closed.
"Equal Affections to me is a bouquet of wildflowers, giving meaning and color to our lives. Each individual flower blooms in its own way and together they strengthen each other. A collective boost of energy and optimism. So let’s all go merrily forward. Gracious and open-minded. Embracing art, and embracing one another," Oostmeijer, the curator of the exhibition stated in the catalog that was released at the Finissage of this presentation. With an idea to introduce the "sense of physicality, desire and beauty through such unique mastery of colors, shapes and textures" in contemporary queer painting, the renowned developer, a passionate art aficionado, and a collector, brought together fourteen figurative painters, many of which we've featured in our magazine over the years. Katherine Bradford, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Felix de Clercq, Anthony Cudahy, Ryan Driscoll, Kyle Dunn, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Louis Fratino, Lenz Geerk, Jenna Gribbon, Doron Langberg, Justin Liam O’Brien, Michael Stamm, and Salman Toor, were the artists whose works graced the walls of both GRIMM gallery locations in the Dutch capital. Celebrating queer culture, life, love, and friendship while "exploring how the self emerges in relation to community and society at large," in a city that is considered to be the birthplace of LGBT rights, and at the time when the global pandemic was giving us some sort of a break, certainly felt like a milestone moment.
"When I look back on the period that I call my gay youth, I see it as an aggregate, a sort of net or hammock, of friendships. Although sex could, and often did, get caught up in this aggregate (let’s call it a community), friendship was the fiber from which it was woven," David Leavitt, whose acclaimed 1988 novel was used as the title of the show, wrote in an essay for the catalog that is marking the exhibition. And it is that same social setup that is an elusive leitmotif of this presentation which, according to the author, "capture the flavor of gay friendship so much more eloquently, in oils, than I can in words". And indeed, where Gribbon creates photographic-like affectionate portraits of her partner, rendered through a frenzy of seemingly nonchalant yet well-calculated and vital strokes, Toor's is weaving gentle rowdy scenes in which timeless caricature-like protagonists are involved in believable and highly likely scenarios. At the same time, where Stamm constructs his symbolism-imbued graphic-like visuals using his unique craftsmanship skills and familiarity with materials and techniques, Bradford is expressively and sincerely documenting vibrant memories of life's simplest highlights through a frolic and daring mark making. Such diversity of both technical and contextual approaches is permeated throughout the exhibition which is divided in two spaces, metaphorically taking over the homeground of one of the most renowned Pride celebrations around the world. With Dunn's romanticised visualisations of private everyday, Geerk's transformations of mundane moments into poetic still lifes, or Fratino's or O'Brien's takes on most intimate, explicit scenes, Equal Affections was indeed a colorful, diverse, and all inclusive celebration of the human body, the self, and relationships created through those two. —Sasha Bogojev