• Street Trades: Gay and Lesbian Performance Art in the Contested Urban Spaces of Gentrifying Manhattan in the 1970s
    David J. Getsy

Stephen Varble, flier for Gutter Art performance (detail), 1976, New York

Gay men and lesbians came to be a significant and increasingly vocal force in the social organization of the art world of 1970s New York, and this project examines the ways in which they allegorized their relation to public spaces, the street, and sites of abandoned urban industry. Through the medium of performance art, Street Trades shows how those artists who turned to Live Art out of a repudiation of the commercialized art world also adopted attitudes that were hostile to gentrification and, more fundamentally, to bourgeois normalcy. Considering the ways in which gay and lesbian performance art specifically defended issues of economic diversity and its embattled state in the face of art world respectability, tourist ambitions, and gentrification, Street Trades examines such issues as the public signification of sexual communities, the appropriation of transgender history, and the use of the street as stage. Gay men, in particular, were on the front lines as they saw their spaces of cruising, community, and possibility fade too quickly into the commercialized art district that would become Soho in the 1980s. Overall, this project takes interest in artists for whom issues of gentrification and its symptomatic expression in the art world's gallery complex were targets of critique. Key figures include Scott Burton, Stephen Varble, Betsy Damon, and David Wojnarowicz.

David J. Getsy is the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His books include Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (Yale, 2015), Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (Yale, 2010), Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 18771905 (Yale, 2004); and, as editor, Queer (MIT Press, 2016), Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 19651975 (Soberscove Press, 2012), From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art (Penn State, 2011), and a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly on "Trans Cultural Production" (2014).