Here are some thoughts on Revelations:
In the art world the queer identity politic of the 1980s, opened up by the feminist art discourse of the 1970s, was made raw with the advent of AIDS. It became a necessity to stare death in the face as artists in the international community were felled by the epidemic.
In Canada, amongst the many losses was Robert Flack (1957 - 1993). Flack was born in Guelph, Ontario and moved to Toronto to study at York University. He began working at Art Metropole in 1980 and worked on a variety of General Idea projects including layouts for FILE megazine. The MacDonald Stewart Art Centre mounted a survey exhibition in 1993.
"From the beginning, Flack's work expressed an otherworldliness - a quality that focused sharply with his HIV sero-conversion in 1988. From that point forward, Flack's vision rocketed almost exclusively into the internalized realms of psychic energy, the chakras and the etheric body." (artmetropole.com)
In Toronto, Flack's studio mate at the time was Stephen Andrews. Andrews was facing his own crisis of mortality as his partner Alex Wilson was claimed by AIDS in 1993. The advent of protease inhibitors in 1996 unexpectedly gave Andrews a profoundly new lease on life, a turning point that has reflected memory, identity and the body politic in his work from then to now.
In a conversation with Andrews last year he referred to his recent paintings as autonomous holistic units and then asked not to be quoted since he wasn't sure what he meant by that yet, as if to say that he was painting towards its meaning. He was no longer working in series, the many facets of his practice - photography, drawing, print-making, video and painting - having become integrated.
In 2010 our gallery mounted Inside The Solar Temple Of The Cosmic Leather Daddy, the final body of work by Will Munro (1975 - 2010). Munro was born in Sydney, Australia and raised in Mississauga, Ontario. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 2000 and in the ten years to follow brought cultural and social activism together in a way never before seen in Toronto. The Art Gallery of York University organized a retrospective of Munro's work in 2012 and will produce a catalogue of record later this year.
Munro's passing, the consequence of a brain tumour, broadened the fields of remembrance and loss beyond the borders of AIDS while at the same time enabling others to celebrate those lives lost.
In 2012, twenty years after Flack's final body of work Love Mind was first exhibited, our gallery remounted the exhibition in the same second floor space that just two years earlier had housed Munro's final show. The parallels between these exhibitions were clear and strong. Both artists, pondering their mortalities while completing their work, became standard bearers for their generations by virtue of what they had left behind and what their work continues to reveal about their humanity and ours.
Reflecting on the thematic properties evident in Flack's psychedelic Love Mind and its pre-digital photographic means of production, and connecting with Munro's merging of Egyptology with the queer margins that he brought together and gave voice to, it becomes apparent that their works share important concerns. Along with Andrews and the other artists in this exhibition, their work explores spiritual iconographies and invites the big questions about what we believe in and how we get there.