James Smalls: The Mark Rice Collection
and the Homo-Erotics of Photography after Stonewall
Humanities Forum / Visual Arts
“The Mark Rice Collection and the Homo-Erotics of Photography after Stonewall”
James Smalls, professor of visual arts, affiliate professor of gender and women’s studies, affiliate professor of Africana studies
Held in conjunction with the exhibition Man, Image, Idea: Photographs of Men from the Mark Rice Collection (read more here), this talk by James Smalls considers the social, cultural, and aesthetic dynamics of the nude figure in gay male photography, along with the complications of its reception during the last decade of the twentieth century. It explores the aesthetics and reception of the Mark Rice Collection of photographs, on exhibit in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery from August 30th to December 12th, whose subject matter engages the mostly nude male body. The Mark Rice Collection is comprised of more than 80 photographs constituting part of the history of gay male photography produced after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, a significant historical event that fostered the visibility and optimistic development of a gay male subculture during the 1970s and early 1980s. Sadly, that carefree optimism turned to a melancholic introspection with the devastating onslaught of HIV/AIDS from the mid-to-late 1980s through the 1990s. Most of the photographs from the collection date to this latter decade and will be considered in this historical context.
James Smalls’ research and publications focus on the intersections of race, gender, and queer sexuality issues in nineteenth-century European art and in the art and culture of the black diaspora. He is the author of Homosexuality in Art (Parkstone Press, 2003), and The Homoerotic Photography of Carl Van Vechten: Public Face, Private Thoughts (Temple University Press, 2006). He is currently completing a book entitled Féral Benga: African Muse of Modernism.
Sponsored by the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, Dresher Center for the Humanities, and the Department of Gender + Women’s Studies.