‘Invisible Sun’ at The Broad spotlights Lari Pittman other queer artists

This weekend is the last chance to see The Broad exhibit “Invisible Sun,” which was developed against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public demands for social justice and racial equity.

It features paintings that resonate with the theme of rupture and social unrest, and spotlights several artists who identify as part of the LGBTQ community, including Mark Bradford, Keith Haring, Glenn Ligon, Lari Pittman, and David Wojnarowicz.

Invisible Sun” will close Sunday.

The exhibition title is drawn from “Invisible Sun (algorithm 8, fable form) by Julie Mehretu, a Black queer woman, who also is featured in the show.

In particular, certain works in “Invisible Sun” speak to the AIDS crisis, gender-and race-based violence, unchecked Capitalism, and colonialism’s aftermath. 

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The exhibition galleries focus on the work of a single artist or thematic groupings. In total, the show features 59 works from the Broad collection: 24 artworks are on view for the first time at the museum, and 16 have been acquired since the museum opened.

Here are highlights of some of the LGBTQ artists in “Invisible Sun.”

Julie Mehretu

Named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020, Julie Mehretu is an abstract painter. She produces large-scale prints, drawings, and paintings that are created in  multiple layers. She was born in Ethiopia in 1970, the eldest child of her Ethiopian college professor father and American teacher mother.

The family left Ethiopia when Mehretu was 7 years old, to escape political violence and settled in East Lansing, Michigan. During high school, Mehretu came out to her friends, but didn’t come out to her parents until her college years.

Mehretu’s history and sexuality helped influence her artistic career. The cumulative effects of urban sociopolitical changes, displacement, and associations to place would become important themes. She is married to Australian artist Jessica Rankin.

Invisible Sun The Broad

Lari Pittman’s “Like You” (1995, © Lari Pittman), left, and Ray Smith’s “El Pollo” (1987, © Ray Smith) are seen on an installation view from “Invisible Sun” at The Broad. Photo: Joshua White.

Lari Pittman

This prolific Los Angeles painter, born in Glendale in 1952, is known for his collage-like paintings whose layered canvases tackle epic themes such as sexuality, colonialism, and AIDS.

His iconic paintings produced in response to the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the 1990s called out the U.S. government’s abandoning of gay men during the ADIS epidemic, when Pittman lost friends.

Pittman’s works have featured rich visuals that have been nurtured during his 40-year career, including owls, Victorian silhouettes, flying text, and exaggerated and sexualized bodies. Pittman’s work was the subject of a major retrospective in 2019-2020 at the Hammer Museum.

David Wojnarowicz

As New York City became the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, David Wojnarowicz weaponized his work and waged war against the establishment’s indifference to the plague until his death from it. During his short yet prolific career, Wojnarowicz worked in writing, painting, photography, film, music, performance, and installation. Unapologetically making art about homosexuality in the 1980s, Wojnarowicz exposed the marginalization and suppression of a stigmatized community. He was self-taught and created an iconography that is personal and universal. Wojnarowicz’s work as an artist is inseparable from his work as an activist, where he brought into the light people who had been forced to live in the shadows of society. Wojnarowicz died in 1992 at the age of 37. “Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker” is a fiery documentary about the artist.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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