Queer Abstraction #2

December 10, 2008

Michael Buitron has picked up this queer little ball and run with it and brings up some very interesting points on his blog.

Most notable is the framing of abstraction as a kind of “turning away.”  (Abstraction is not just a noun, remember.)  There are three things you can turn away from, at this particular intersection, which are all exciting to various degrees.  First there’s the pull away from representation toward queer code (Michael discusses this, and a good example is the abstraction of the handkerchief code).  So imagine, if you will, a Robert Morris white column left untouched except for a nice neat glory hole.

Then there’s the turn away from heteronormativity that abstraction could provide.  Here, imagine happy perky images of heteronormativity (i.e. family photographs) reduced or erased almost to the point of nonexistence.  There’s a lot of lateral thinking involved here, and the queerness is maybe less apparent in this mode of practice than in the glory-holed white column, but it brings up the idea of abstraction as active negation rather than the passive absence of “something” that may otherwise be there.

Option three is what excites me the most, though; that would be a turning-away from the heteronormativity of the gay community.   A kind of negative requeerification.  Imagine now, instead of the happy straight Yuppie couple, a snapshot of a pride parade (or a drawing) similarly literally pushed toward nothingness.  What would that kind of act mean, to shake the WeHo Yupsterism out of gay imagery?  Again, I’m not sure, but that seems to hold the most possibility for me as a way to approach abstraction via the toolkit of queerness (and vice versa).

Finally, on an endnote, an important precursor we might be forgetting here is Scott Burton and his charged tableaux into the design of furniture that contained a trace of those tableaux in their tension and discomfort and arm’s-length relationship to the essential forms of high minimalism.  More about Burton in the next post.

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2 Responses to “Queer Abstraction #2”


  1. I keep thinking about Charles Demuth. Are there hidden queer signifiers in his abstract work, or could they be read as his turning away from his own sexuality (as it’s realized in his representational stuff)?

    I like option three. Are you talking about removing faces like you posted here earlier? It sounds like you’re attempting to queer the homonormativity of mainstream gay culture.

  2. Will Says:

    I like the idea of messing with the ___normativity of
    queer/mainstream culture, but the erased faces could mean
    anything to a viewer, including an attempt to erase the culture
    depicted, which may or may not be what you intend. Other ways to actively resist normative slots could be things like placing
    mannequin heads over ad photos, either cleanly or messily.

    One thing Dykes to Watch Out For covered in this area was Mo’s
    resistance to the mainstreaming of gay culture (as in Will & Grace),
    and the commercialization of major gay media (as with the
    Advocate). The idea that queers are acceptable as long as they’re
    spending a lot might be a good place to start. If you used
    the language and techniques of ad photography it could be a sort
    of queer Adbusters (who eventually branded themselves, ironically).


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