Since moving from Spain in 2012, freshed-face photographer Gerardo Vizmanos has made quite a name for himself on New York’s creative landscape. Now, to birth the start of Spring, he brings his new exhibition Hidden Subject with the city’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
The exhibition, which will be part of the world’s first art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve LGBT+ art, opens this Friday and deals with contrasting a sense of serenity with the tension of a latent sexuality that could be present but remains hidden. Movement and identity are two forefront factors in Vizmanos’ work, frequently working with dance companies and forward thinking fashion brands to explore motion and entrapment in his work.
We caught up with the LGBT+ photographer ahead of the show’s opening to discuss themes, subjects and the importance of queer art as a political statement.
Hidden Subject is filled with slumped and somewhat lifeless bodies, what was the reasoning behind photographing your subjects like this?
I understand the notion subject as a concept we make from the perception of existence but the idea of subject has no real tangible existence. We see objects and people encapsulated in them. I try to work with my models to study my own ideas. They become the elements from where I think on my own concepts and for doing so I need to delete some parts. Sometimes the images become more abstract than others. I prepare the shootings and I direct a lot my models but the final outcome is always a mystery, it depends a lot on the interaction with them.
How important is anonymity in these works?
Anonymity is a recurrent element on all my works. It’s the only source I find available to confront some social construction rules. The environment and social rules are very relevant in the final outcome of our personalities. We learn a language, traditions, politics, religions and general ideas about how things are from our environment and by learning this we learn to be. By making the subjects anonymous I try to put distance from those elements. My prior work “NoOne” talked about the impossibility of living without being someone. Social rules let us exist even being an outcast, but there is no permission to live being no one. We have the duty to be a subject and by my intent to erase those elements I try to prevent those rules from entering into my private space. I guess anonymity is my defence.
And tell me about the name for this exhibition?
The title was the last part of the process. When I was selecting the images I found the paradox that I was looking for clues of my own subject but I was adding something that was blocking me from entering to certain areas. I felt like creating a code I can’t decode. I have my own ideas about what is hidden on these photos, but I want the viewers to have individual opinions. Maybe nothing is hidden for them.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Your previous works seem to have references from dance to BDSM.
Dance and some elements of BDSM are two recurrent inspirations, but I take them in a personal way. Sexual BDSM is a part of what happens in life in a broader perspective. People may think on a dark dungeon when we talk about BDSM but that’s just a very small portion of it. I’m intrigued by the submission/domination relationships and how they are portrayed in different people. I think social relationships are based on this more that we think at first sight. Learning languages or acquiring social rules and traditions is a training process more than an educational one. As individuals in a collective environment we feel a submissive desire to be part of the group to be accepted by the others as one of them, but at the same time we have a dominant trend to mark our individuality as being different. Live is a training process where isolation is the punishment and socialization the reward. Sexual submission/domination is just a segmented picture of this narrative that can be aesthetically appealing under certain codes and I find some of them inspiring. Fashion is full of these references today, unless in the references I use for my work.
I find dancers very special people and they clearly inspire my work. Since I was very young in the city where I grew up in Spain I’ve been watching dance, mostly contemporary dance. I remember when I discoveedr Pina Bausch or La Veronal and other companies in Spain and from those experiences I’ve got this idea that dance is a concept and movement a way to express it. The concept of movement is an instrument that helps me a lot to interpret my own ideas and I’m very interested in continuing my work with this.
Is it important for you to translate your sexuality into your work?
I don’t think my personal sexuality is very important, but the way I live my own sexuality, which is the same way I live everything, is very important in my work. Even though I don’t see too many sexual elements on my photos, there are many elements that easily trigger the sexuality of the viewer and I find that interesting because in some way I feel I’m placing the viewer in a similar perspective to the one I have. If they can feel something of what I feel I’ll be very happy thinking there is any type of communication.
What does it mean to you to have your work in the same gallery as the likes of Mapplethorpe, Hujar, Warhol and Von Goeden?
Leslie Lohman Museum has an impressive collection of photos from artist that may be called gay. Some of them might be gayer than others and they have different styles. I admire most of them. Having my work exhibited at the space Leslie Lohman has for emerging photographers is moving and exciting. It also brings me the opportunity to think about my work as a gay work. I consider gay more as a political ideology with cultural, personal and social implications that a particular aesthetic and in this sense I think my work has an undeniable gay element. My concepts and my point of view wouldn’t have happen without me being gay in particular time at a particular place. I’m very happy that this is the place I’m showing my work in New York.
Hidden Subject, Friday March 24th-Sunday 26th, 2017 from 12-6pm. Project Space 127-B Prince Street New York. NY 10012