Lazlo & Shanti, 2004, 40 x 27.2 in., digital c-print by Del Lagrace Volcano
Del LaGrace Volcano: A Mid-Career Retrospective
Curated by Jonathan David Katz and Julia Haas
September 19-November 11, 2012
Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 19, 6-8pm
The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
26 Wooster Street, New York City, USA
Del LaGrace Volcano, Self Portrait Collaboration with Gerard Rancinan, Paris, 2004, 24 x 24 in., digital c-print
[August 1, 2012– New York, NY] The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is proud to present Del LaGrace Volcano: A Mid-Career Retrospective, the first U.S. museum exhibition of the gender variant artist’s 30-year career. A pioneer of LGBT photography, Volcano’s work undercuts assumptions about the legibility of gender. Widely celebrated as a significant figure at the center of a conversation about the body, gender and sexuality in Europe, Volcano is little shown — and therefore little known — in the United States where s/he was born. In a survey of portraits and self-portraits, Volcano, with disarming frankness, charts the often complicated relationship between physical transformation and shifting identifications.
The chief strength of Volcano’s work is his/her playfulness with categories and structures of sexuality, gender and identity – a push to redefine the body as always in process, a mutable container of flesh. Volcano mobilizes his/her intersex gender and identity as an alternative to binary gender norms, recognizing that for many gender, like sexuality, is not an either/or equation. Above all, Volcano’s work is not transgender, at least as the term is normally deployed to suggest the legible progression from one gender to another, but rather about intersex, the interstitial space between genders, partaking at the sametime of aspects of both. As the use of alternating pronouns evidences, Volcano understands his/her work as a continuous challenge to standards of gender legibility and knowability. When s/he photographs a gender indeterminate black model in black face dressed in showy vaudeville garb in a desolately unpeopled all-white Antarctic landscape, all visible signifiers of identity cancel each other out. White meets black, blackface meets black, culture meets nature, male meets female.
Volcano’s refusal to adhere to knowable standards extends to every level of his/her work, resulting in images that question assumptions about gender, as well as mainstream social standards including race, sexuality, and beauty.
“My intention is to explode the notion of the truthful body,” says Volcano. “My work demonstrates how physiological sex is every bit as much of a cultural construct as gender. Although we all know that the relationship between a photograph and the truth is unreliable at best, we still want to believe what our eyes tell us.”
Jax Back, Jackie McConochie, London, 1992, 22 x 19 in., digital c-print by Del Lagrace Volcano
Volcano’s particular kind of gender subversion is a lie that generates another lie: there is no moment of “reveal” like in the climax of the old time drag show where the queen removes her hair and gender is again re-stabilized. Instead, what is revealed from the performance in these images is more performance. Del LaGrace Volcano was born in California and currently lives in Sweden. S/he attended the San Francisco Art Institute, and received an MA in Photographic Studies at the University of Derby in 1992. Volcano has published five books, Love Bites (Gay Men’s Press, 1991), The Drag King Book with Judith Halberstam Serpent’s Tail, 1999), Sublime Mutations (Konkursbuchverlag, 2000), Sex Works(Konkursbuchverlag, 2005), Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities with Ulrika Dahl (Serpent’s Tail, 2009).
Selected exhibitions include sh(OUT) at the Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland; Corpus Queer: Bodies in Resistance at Le Transpalette Centre for Contemporary Art in Bourges, France; Street Style at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; Das Achte Feld: The Eighth Square, Ludwig Museum, Koln, Germany; and En Todas Partes: Politicas de la Diversidad En El Arte (Everywhere: Sexual Diversity Policies in Art), Centro Galego De Arte Contemporanea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Volcano’s work has been cited and reproduced in numerous publications, journals and books on visual art and queer and feminist theory, including Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam, the Guggenheim exhibition catalog Rrose Is A Rrose Is A Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography, Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser, Intersex and After in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay studies, Art and Photography by David Campany, and The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader edited by Amelia Jones.
Del LaGrace Volcano: A Mid-Career Retrospective will be on view September 19 through November 11, 2012. there will be an opening reception Wednesday, September 19 from 6 to 8 pm. Books by Volcano, Femmes of Power and Sublime Mutations, will be available for purchase.
Rachel Maddow at Home in my Studio, London, 1998, 22 x 19 in., digital c-print by Del Lagrace Volcano