RISD Museum announces new exhibition: Any distance between us

PROVIDENCE, RI, April 15, 2021 - The RISD Museum announces Any distance between us, curated by Stephen Truax and Dominic Molon. The exhibition will open on July 17, 2021, and run through March 13, 2022. 

Any distance between us explores the power and significance of intimate relationships in works of contemporary art. Almost all of the thirty-five participating artists identify as queer and/or people of color. The exhibition’s forty artworks, made from 1954 to 2021, are drawn from active artists' studios, private collections, and from the RISD Museum’s permanent collection.Together, they reflect a profound cultural and political shift over the last seventy-five years in representations of sexual orientation, gender identification, class, and race. Any distance between us draws poetic connections between works from disparate media (including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and prints), distinct historical moments, and different cultural contexts.

Stephen Truax (RISD BFA 2007, Painting) comments, “‘What relationship is safe enough to make it the subject of one’s work?’ I asked in a review of Nicole Eisenman’s 2016 exhibition at Anton Kern in New York. Since asking that question—which is about being vulnerable—my curatorial and artistic practice has driven me to visit the studios and write about other young, queer artists in New York City, many of whom are included in this show. I find their work to be tender and without irony, almost sentimental, and unapologetically beautiful—all qualities I thought as a student at RISD were beyond the limits of contemporary art. Like Eisenman, these artists seemed to represent everything the New York art world could be but wasn’t.”

Truax adds, “Any distance between us expands on my 2018 curatorial project, Intimacy, which was presented at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York. That show, like this one, celebrated queer artists active today in context with a rough historical lineage of queer art from which their work emerged. This exhibition is enriched by pairing objects from the RISD Museum’s broad collection with works being made right now, this year. In the wake of the AIDS crisis, young queer artists so often are cut off from historical predecessors like Alvin Baltrop, Patrick Angus, and Hugh Steers, who also turn inward to their lived experience and identity to make a powerful, political gesture. This exhibition of radical queer art made over the past three quarters of a century articulates this important and often overlooked artistic movement, and visualizes that essential art-historical throughline of these humble, unassuming practices. My hope is that this show will embolden artists at RISD today to make work that is authentic and meaningful to them, fearlessly rooted in their everyday lives.”

Dominic Molon states, “This exhibition—and especially the acquisition of much of the work that comprises it—demonstrates the RISD Museum’s commitment to recognizing and celebrating the brave portrayal and documentation of affecting personal moments in the lives of people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community by artists of color and artists identifying as LGBTQIA+. Works by Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Kennedi Carter, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, and Deana Lawson, for example, underscore the exhibition’s emphasis on the importance of self-representation—specifically of African Americans in the case of these four artists. The power of the romantic bond between two people is poetically addressed by Tom Burr, Elle Pérez, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Salman Toor, among others. Any distance between us also provides an opportunity for reflection on a year defined by the solitude or compulsory closeness of the COVID lockdowns.”

Artists on view are: Patrick Angus, Alvin Baltrop, Tom Burr, Katherine Bradford, Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Paul Cadmus, Patrick Carroll, Kennedi Carter, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, TM Davy, Angela Dufresne, Jess T. Dugan, Nicole Eisenman (RISD BFA 1987, Painting), Louis Fratino, Aaron Gilbert (RISD BFA 2005, Painting), Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Christopher K. Ho, David Hockney, Sholem Krishtalka, Doron Langberg, Deana Lawson (RISD MFA 2004, Photography), Robert Mapplethorpe, Maesie Mattia, Catherine Opie, Elle Pérez, Jack Pierson,  Sage Sohier, Hugh Steers, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tom of Finland, Salman Toor, Keith Vaughan, Andy Warhol, and David Wojnarowicz.

The museum will complement the exhibition with Issue 16 of its journal Manual. This Fall/Winter 2021 release will also focus on intimacy, and will feature texts by the curators, projects by selected participating artists, and images of the exhibition. Contributors include Stephen Truax and Dominic Molon, with Ahmari Benton, Gina Borromeo, Marisa Brown, Wai Yee Chiong, Angela Dufresne, Matt Garza, Christopher K. Ho, Vanessa Jennings, MariNaomi, Carl Phillips, Diane Seuss, Laurie Simmons, Judith Tannenbaum, Jessica Urick, and Nafis White. The museum will also present related public programs beginning in the fall.

Any distance between us is curated by Stephen Truax (RISD BFA 2007 Painting) in collaboration with Dominic Molon, the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art at RISD Museum. It expands on Truax’s exhibition Intimacy (June 28 – August 24, 2018), at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, and his 2017 essay for Artsy, “Why Young Queer Artists Are Trading Anguish for Joy.” 

The RISD Museum is currently open for RISD students, faculty, and staff only, but is expected to open to the public in early summer.