Visiting Artist - David Getsy
Rubbish and Dreams: Stephen Varble’s Genderqueer Performances in the 1970s
Performance artist, playwright, and fashion designer Stephen Varble (b. Owensboro, Kentucky, 1946; d. New York City, 1984) was a fixture on the streets of SoHo in the 1970s, but his ephemeral practice has largely gone unrecognized in histories of art. His guerrilla practice aimed at disruption — of commerce, of gender roles, and of the institutions of art and celebrity. In elaborate sculptural garments made of street trash, Varble held unauthorized gallery tours through SoHo and protest performances in banks, Fifth Avenue stores, and in the street. A favourite of photographers such as Greg Day, Peter Hujar, and Jimmy DeSana, Varble’s art performed gender transformation and hybridity for both popular and art audiences in the 1970s. Over the past five years, David Getsy has been recovering, through interviews and private archives, the story of Varble’s work from his early performances as a student at the University of Kentucky to his participation in Fluxus and Warhol’s Factory to his unique brand of street performance to his work in video art. He will discuss Varble’s work and the struggle to write the first history of this performance artist who left little behind and who was antagonistic to art’s institutions.
David Getsy is the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His books include Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (2015); Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965-1975 (2012); Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (2010); and, most recently, the collection of artists’ writings, Queer, for the Whitechapel Gallery’s ‘Documents of Contemporary Art’ book series (2016). His current major projects focus on archival-based recoveries of queer and genderqueer performance art in the 1970s.
With Support from the Abercrombie Foundation Research Fund
Second Floor Ballroom