Somewhere between Albrecht Dürer’s Nuremberg and Barbie’s Dreamtopia, a stampede of Sparkle Unicorns makes up “The Stonewall Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
At Chimento Contemporary, South Carolina artist duo Lanier Laney and Terry Sweeney have installed a suite of four mixed-media works to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the uprising at Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn, a pivotal event in the postwar civil rights movement for LGBTQ equality. Four rainbow-hued cutouts of sequin-covered unicorn heads line one wall, their glittery tails of multicolored foil streamers cascading to the floor.
A no-nonsense text unfurls at a viewer’s feet, marking the “fiery Armageddon” at Stonewall, a Mafia-controlled West Village bar periodically raided by police. During one especially brutal intrusion on June 28, 1969, young gay, lesbian and transgender patrons abruptly refused to cooperate with what the text correctly identifies as the “institutionalized harassment and oppression of all queer people.” The combat with the NYPD went on for six days.
That the institutions doing the harassing were the mob and the police — a criminal syndicate on one side, law enforcement on the other, with marginalized people squeezed in between — shows just how enveloping the persecution was. The installation by Laney and “Saturday Night Live” alum Sweeney responds with what is essentially party decor — oddly fitting for the Stonewall Inn as a place of relaxation and refuge, however fragile, from daily strife, as well as for today’s nationwide celebrations of the event.
Colorful party fluff is also an apt rejoinder to embedded assumptions that artistic significance must arise at the expense of fun. (Outlaws can come in a rainbow of colors, and one might say this is art that refuses to assimilate.) Notably these mythic unicorns shake their pompom tails at apocalyptic Armageddon, with its primitive biblical overtones of fundamentalist moral values.
If you’d prefer something more serious — at least, something seemingly more sober — go around back in the gallery and pick up a T-shirt. The artists have emblazoned a selection of sizes hanging on a rack with the august logo “Yale MFA.” Now that’s a sure-fire shortcut to artistic respectability, and one that would have actually fit the much-abused camp fashion theme of the 2019 Met Gala.
Chimento Contemporary, 4480 W. Adams Blvd., L.A. Wednesdays-Saturdays, through July 13. (323) 998-0464, chimentocontemporary.net