Christopher Stout: Wonderment of Otherness
September 1 through October 2, 2021
By ROGER MATHEW GRANT, October 2021
“Wonderment of Otherness” is an exhibition of new monochrome paintings by New York City artist Christopher Stout (pronouns: he/him/they) concerning queer abstraction and exhibited September 01—October 02 at Lichtundfire Gallery directed by Priska Juschka in the Lower East Side.
Stout defines queer abstraction as, “activist art about the queer experience that does not employ representation of the human figure.”
The artist recently met with professor and author Roger Mathew Grant to discuss the exhibition.
RMG: This show is striking for its visual coherence, even while the work is engaged with several different traditions of queer writing. Can you explain how theory has informed your understanding of queer abstraction?
CS: Thank you for your comment about the work. I’ve been reading queer literature and queer theory since my coming out. Reading is of course one of the most foundational things an artist is encouraged to practice in terms of research, and this is the first time that I’ve underscored a formal line between queer theory and my painting. Perhaps these paintings serve as holding shapes allowing you to activate and drink from the texts.
RMG: Is there more than homology between genre queer and gender queer?
CS: Yes and no. I would suggest that works discussing gender are arterial to the queer genre; however, there are so many other beautiful parts of the queer experience that buttress the cannon of queer genre work that are outside of discourse on gender.
RMG: The quilting technique is a beautiful synecdoche with the strands of queer theory you've drawn together in this show. What inspired your turn to quilting?
CS: I’ve been slowly teaching myself patternmaking, and I am part of a queer sewing group led by quilter Richie Doron. As I kept observing Richie’s quilting, I became aware that I wanted to explore elements of quilt making in the construction of paintings. Eventually, I asked Richie permission to work on the textile pieces that became these paintings during group. Because I was sewing linen with wire, I didn’t know if it was too off the mark for a sewing group activity; however, Richie welcomed the idea and here we are. Quilting contains the heritage of telling the stories of families and peoples (including marginalized ones), and so this is a continuation of that longstanding tradition.
RMG: Your title speaks of wonderment, and you derive so much inspiration from José Muñoz's queer futurity. Can you explain how monochrome was a fitting vehicle for this utopianism?
CS: Oh, I am completely excited by a monochrome, and especially by these ones which signal room for the entire spectrum of queerdom while enforcing a rhizome structure. A monochrome also seems effective to me, in politely engaging the viewer to pause and reflect on authors such as Muñoz, without being tasked with the impossibility of directly illustrating the texts they honor.