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Group exhibition celebrates artists whose work explores and engages with gender identity
Installation view of Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, courtesy of Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Thierry Bal.

LONDON.- Hayward Gallery presents Kiss My Genders, a group exhibition celebrating more than 30 international artists whose work explores and engages with gender identity.

Spanning the past 50 years, Kiss My Genders brings together over 100 artworks by different generations of artists from around the world. Employing a wide range of approaches, these artists share an interest in articulating and engaging with gender fluidity, as well as with non-binary, trans and intersex identities.

While the artists in Kiss My Genders work across a wide variety of media – including installation, video, painting, sculpture and wall drawings – the exhibition places a particular emphasis on works that revisit the tradition of photographic portraiture. A number of artists in the exhibition treat the body itself as sculpture, and in doing so open up new possibilities for gender, beauty and representations of the human form.

Participating artists include: Ajamu, Travis Alabanza, Amrou Al-Kadhi & Holly Falconer, Sadie Benning, Nayland Blake, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Flo Brooks, Luciano Castelli, Jimmy DeSana, Jes Fan, Chitra Ganesh, Martine Gutierrez, Lyle Ashton Harris, Nicholas Hlobo, Peter Hujar, Juliana Huxtable, Joan Jett Blakk, Tarek Lakhrissi, Zoe Leonard, Ad Minoliti, Pierre Molinier, Kent Monkman, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, Planningtorock, Christina Quarles, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, Hunter Reynolds, Athi-Patra Ruga, Tejal Shah, Victoria Sin, Jenkin van Zyl, Del LaGrace Volcano.

Kiss My Genders plays host to a number of artists who explore gender expression through performance, drag and masquerade. These include Ajamu, a London-based visual activist whose work challenges conventional understanding of sexuality, desire, pleasure and cultural production within contemporary Britain; Brooklyn-based performance artist Martine Gutierrez, who characterises identity as something ‘alien or unfamiliar’ in her ambitious photographic series Masking and Demons (both 2018); and Amrou Al-Kadhi, a British-Iraqi writer, drag performer and filmmaker, who in collaboration with British photographer Holly Falconer, created a photographic portrait Glamrou (2016) using triple exposure to communicate the experience of being in drag as a person of Muslim heritage.

A number of the artworks in this exhibition address the broader social and political questions and contexts that intersect with gender identity. Concerned with the way that marginalised groups are ‘forced to be their own saints’, Juliana Huxtable portrays herself as a mythological character or superhero in a series of powerful self-portraits or ‘self-imaginings’. In The Memorial Dress (1993) – a black ball gown printed with the names of 25,000 individuals known to have died of AIDS-related illnesses – artist and AIDS activist Hunter Reynolds uses art as a tool to process trauma as well as transform it. London-based artist duo Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings explore the politics, histories and aesthetics of queer space in their video installation Something for the Boys (2018); and in an unsettling series of photographs entitled Crime Scene (2012), Zanele Muholi draws attention to the violence suffered by South Africa’s lesbian and transgender communities.

Kiss My Genders features a number of new works and site-specific commissions. In the upper galleries, Jenkin van Zyl, the youngest artist in the exhibition, presents a new, expanded video work, Looners (2019), while Brooklyn-based visual artist Chitra Ganesh – whose work deals with representations of femininity, sexuality and power – has created site-specific installation At Her Dream’s Edge (2019).

Taking place across the entire Hayward Gallery, Kiss My Genders also extends beyond the gallery walls, with two new commissions that transform elements of the Southbank Centre site.

Ad Minoliti, an Argentinian artist who uses brightly coloured geometric designs to represent a trans-human utopia, has designed the Southbank Centre’s Riverside Stage, while a series of flags designed by Minoliti adorn the roof of Royal Festival Hall. Elsewhere on site, South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga has transformed the windows of Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery foyer into a striking display of ‘stained glass’ featuring avatars designed by the artist, and a poem by Tarek Lakhrissi – ‘Glory’ – greets visitors as they approach the stairs leading to Southbank Centre’s Mandela Walk.

Kiss My Genders is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring original essays by Amrou Al-Kadhi, Paul Clinton, Charlie Fox, Jack Halberstam, Manuel Segade and Susan Stryker, as well as an excerpt from Renate Lorenz’s influential Queer Art: A Freak Theory, and poetry by Travis Alabanza, Jay Bernard, Nat Raha and Tarek Lakhrissi. Also featured in the exhibition catalogue is a roundtable discussion between a number of the artists and exhibition curator Vincent Honoré.

The exhibition’s title is taken from the song ‘Transome’ by Bolton-born, Berlin-based singer-songwriter, Planningtorock, who will also perform as part of the exhibition’s public programme (17 July, Queen Elizabeth Hall).

Vincent Honoré, Guest Curator said: "Kiss My Genders brings together a leading group of international artists who explore and engage with gender identities. Conveyed through a wide range of mediums, this exhibition intends to be a wonderful celebration welcoming the brilliant differences and the rich spectra of genders within our society."

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