“Merrymakers dance the night away,” reads the bottom of a magazine sheet that the 2015 Baxter St Workspace Resident Pacifico Silano ‘tore’ from a vast collection of gay porn ephemera for his intricately hung solo exhibition at Baxter St Camera Club’s Chinatown location. Tear Sheets fits like a glove as a title to Pacifico’s practice, which stems from investigating marginalized and disposed ephemera belonging to all in all marginalized gay identity.
Originating from 1970s and 1980s–that weighty era of pre and post AIDS outbreak, pages from bygone gay magazines such as Blueboy and Torso revive through Silano’s meticulous treatment, not only unveiling subdued narratives embedded into the history of gay culture, but also adopting timely and germane dialogues this app-driven era has born.
The graduate of SVA’s Photography & Video MFA program, Silano employs inherently obsessive archivist soul that pioneers of The Pictures Generation mastered. Silano holds onto this meticulous approach as an anchor during his study between countless pages graced by handsome models whose anonymities reclaim them as iconic.
Wandering around Silano’s exhibition, one cannot help pondering the question of how many of these models actually made through the pandemic, or, if they did, where they are now. These questions and the traumatic state of AIDS–from its emergence in the late ‘70s to the present–coats the exhibition mutely, but gracefully. Silano, who presented his solo New York debut Against Nature last year at ClampArt (read our co-founder Emily Colucci’s interview with him for VICE), knows how to orchestrate exquisite and elegant compositions out of vast material utilizing extensive means of digital media.
Putting contemplative force of blank space into conversation with the profound, optic charge of pornographic ephemera in works such as Cherry Lips, Leather Bar Matches and Hollywood Spa, the Brooklyn-based artist articulates the performative nature of looking, tearing and hiding–acts that have always governed undisclosed gay experience in a heteronormative landscape.
Appropriation has been the foremost term expressed alongside The Pictures Generation. Although this has been applicable for its pioneers who had critical outlooks on consumerist, elitist and sexist visual culture, Silano’s methodology is distant from internalizing such outsider approach as he delves into tracing waning footprints of his own community and identity.
Instead, he dismantles undertones beneath ghettoized, rapidly perishing archives of minor histories, pursuing methods of an avid researcher and archivist. “Queer is a continuing moment, movement, motive–recurrent, eddying, troublant‘ cites queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in the foreword of Tendencies, emphasizing its fluid and transformative state over time. Crossing over decades, ideals and encounters, enduring force of piles–once hiding under beds or in depths of closets–that narrate queer experience over generations.