Apr 14th 2023

Patric McCoy: Take My Picture

@ Wrightwood 659

659 W Wrightwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Opening Friday, April 14th, from 12PM - 5PM

On view through Saturday, July 15th

Patric McCoy: Take My Picture features a selection of 50 striking photographic portrayals of gay Black men taken on the streets of Chicago in the 1980s. These photographs were shot by  Patric McCoy, Chicago native, retired environmental scientist, and noted collector of African American art, who traveled around Chicago, often on his bike, always with his camera.

Over a crucial ten-year period, McCoy shot thousands of images—always at the subjects’ request—which form a rich document of 1980s Black gay Chicago. Take My Picture features a  selection of some 50 black-and-white and color photographs from this decade, by the end of which thousands would die of HIV/AIDS, including many of McCoy’s friends, lovers, and subjects. McCoy’s subjects are neither posed nor directed; each has agency over how he is seen, elevating his humanity, inverting and subverting the viewer’s gaze. Take My Picture can be seen as a poignant marker of place, time, and memory; an altar to those lost.

The exhibition is curated by Juarez Hawkins, artist, educator, and curator, who noted, “McCoy and his camera fulfilled an unspoken need for Black men to be seen. Seen by someone who did not objectify them as ‘Other’, but an insider who allowed them, paraphrasing Langston Hughes, to be their ‘beautiful black selves’.”

The Rialto Tap, a now defunct gay bar in the South Loop of Chicago, attracted McCoy’s muses. Open around the clock, the bar packed in men from all walks of life: unhoused people,  downtown professionals, drag queens, gangsters, “buppies,” and others. The Rialto was one of few places where black men could socialize with other black men; at the time, many  “mainstream” gay bars were unwelcoming to men of color.

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