Beginning June 21, artist Sharon Hayes (b.
1970) will take over the Whitney Museum of American Art's third floor Peter
Norton Family Galleries for a project-based exhibition, her largest museum
show to date. The exhibition features a group of new works specially
commissioned by the Whitney, alongside a selection of existing works, all
of which articulate different forms of what the artist refers to as "speech
acts." Hayes has collaborated with artist Andrea
Geyer to create a large site-specific structure that contains
all the works in the show, and also functions as an independent artwork.
Using the vernacular of transient staging for trade
shows, political rallies, and other outdoor events, Hayes and Geyer's
space—a large wooden floor with platforms, low walls, and seating
arrangements—creates a place for the staging of speech of various
kinds. Banners, signs, video and film projections, sound works, a newly
pressed vinyl record, fliers, record covers, posters, photographs, and a
performance use both political language and deeply personal declarations of
desire, longing, and love to create forms of address that act as both
communication and action.
Now a chasm has
opened between us that holds us together and keeps us apart, a
100-foot-long white curtain, introduces the exhibition, its obscuring of
what lies immediately beyond it creating a sense of anticipation that
evokes the performative action of the stage. The applicability of the title
and the meaning of the work to either the current political situation or an
emotional relationship underscore the location of Hayes' work in the
overlap between history, politics, and love.
works commissioned for the exhibition include I Saved Her a
Bullet, a large-scale overhead projection of the moment when the
notoriously homophobic ex-beauty queen and singer Anita Bryant was hit in
the face by a pie by gay activist Thom Higgins during a news conference in
Des Moines in 1977. InGay Power, a film installation made in
collaboration with 1960s feminist activist Kate Millett, Hayes and Millett
recorded a voice-over that comments on unedited film footage that Millett
and the other members of the Women's Liberation Cinema shot of the second
annual Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade celebrating the lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender community in New York in 1971.
Hayes' collaborative approach takes a different form
in Join Us, for which she has assembled 600 fliers borrowed
from individual activists and archives across America from the 1960s to the
present, hung salon-style in a loose grid. The fliers, whose subjects
include protesting the Vietnam War, the policies of Ronald Reagan, the
American invasion of Iraq, and rallying people to gay rights marches, are
brought together by Hayes in an action that becomes a collective invitation
These and other newly commissioned works are
set in dialogue with a number of existing works includingSymbionese
Liberation Army (SLA) Screeds #13, 16, 20 &
29 (2003); Everything Else Has Failed! Don't You Think
it's Time for Love? (2007); Yard
(Sign) (2009/2012); I March in the Parade of Liberty, But
As Long As I Love You I Am Not Free (2007–2008); and other
works, creating a richly layered environment of text, image, and
sound. There's so much I want to say to you becomes a
declaration to us, the viewers; to an unknown lover; and to an unidentified
public, in a complex dialogue between the domains of public, private, and
"Voice Portraits: Aya, Stokely, Lola," 2012. Video, color, silent. Courtesy
Sharon Hayes and Tanya Leighton Gallery. Performers: Aya Ogawa, J.D.
Stokley, Lola Pashalinski.