When queer alumni and art history meet: We Fancy at the Art Students League of New York

We Fancy, opening event,. Image courtesy of the Art Students League.


Curated by Eric Shiner

Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery

On view until November 27, 2022

Alumni Artists Patricia Carzola and Ajmal Millar during the opening event, image courtesy of the Art Students League

Curator Talk, Friday Nov. 18th, 6 to 7 pm 

Free with RSVP

By COCO DOLLE, November 2022 

For decades, The Art Students League has been the hub of influential artists who have shaped the vocabulary of major historical art movements. Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Lee Krasner, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein, have all been instructors, lecturers and students at The League. 

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Study for Triumph of Love), 1961. Courtesy of Beth Rudin DeWoody.

Deborah Kass, Silver Deb, 2000, courtesy Deborah Kass and Kavi Gupta Gallery

When I came to study art in New York in the late 90s, it became evident that this would be the best school for any young aspiring artist with anticonformist ideas, one whose identity construct didn’t comply with standard social norms. I’ve had the privilege to be one of those students learning with the likes of Larry Poons, a notorious American abstract painter highlighted in the art documentary The Price of Everything and a former student at the League. I remember Larry would come to class everyday, a cup of coffee in his hand, roam around his students hard at labor on their easels, and scant out loud “Don’t think! Just Paint!”.  

Up on the second floor of the League, the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery presents temporary exhibitions related to its students, past and present. 

This Fall’s guest curator Eric Shiner, former Andy Warhol Museum director, organized an impressive group exhibition focused on the LGBTQ+ community of artists who studied at the League. Titled after a quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, “We Fancy” brings together a diverse group of artists working in portraiture, abstraction and pop art. 

Coco Dolle, Smokey Lady, 2008-2022. Courtesy of the artist.

Gerald Simcoe, Self Portrait, 1987 courtesy of the artist

In his curator’s essay, Eric Shiner explains: “In researching this exhibition that is meant to celebrate the long legacy of LGBTQIA+ artists at the League, it became clear in myriad ways that queerness has been a part of the League’s fabric from its earliest days and that through its dedication to creative expression, the League has made space—if at times imperfectly or awkwardly—for queer artists to have as much of a semblance of safe space for the expression of their identity as was possible during their time…. The League has acted as an armory for the construction and storage of queer weaponry, and thus it can be seen as a grand stage upon which countless queer identities have been authored, performed, and released into the world… We can safely say that the League not only encouraged artistic innovation, but in so doing, became a place where alternate sexual identities could be both imagined and enacted, if only through oils, clay, crayons, and any other material at hand.”

Emilio Sanchez, Tres Portas, Permanent collection of the Art Students League

The We Fancy exhibition includes artists: Ajmal MAS MAN Millar, Alvin Gill-Tapia, Andrew Drilon, Bernard Perlin, Carrie Gleason, Cazola+Saleme, Chitra Ganesh, Chuck Nitzberg, Coco Dolle, Cy Twombly, David J. Marchi, Deborah Kass, Dominique Medici, Doug Safranek, Edith Isaac-Rose, Emilio Sanchez, George Tooker , Gerald Simcoe, Harold Stevenson, Jared French, Joe Eula, Juan Hinojosa, Judith Godwin, Kenneth Paul Block, Naruki Kukita, Neil A. Lane, PaJaMa, Paul Cadmus, Paul Thek, Robert Rauschenberg, Sonja Sekula, and William Behnken. WM


Coco Dolle

Coco Dolle is a French-American artist, writer, and independent curator based in New York since the late 90s. Former dancer and fashion muse for acclaimed artists including Alex Katz, her performances appeared in Vogue and The NY Times. Over the past decade, she has organized numerous exhibitions acclaimed in high-end publications including Forbes, ArtNet, VICE, and W Magazine. She is a contributing writer for L’Officiel Art and Whitehot Magazine. As an artist, her work focuses on body politics and feminist issues as seen at the Oregon Contemporary (OR) and Mary Ryan Gallery (NYC).


Follow her on instagram.

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