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Bridging gay generations: The art of Daniel Dallabrida

March 23rd, 2012

Daniel Dallabrida, artist

This Monday, March 26,  at 7 p.m. a multi-generational gathering of gay writers and performers will participate in “Younger Than Jesus: Older Than Aids” at the magnet community space in the Castro. The evening is an extension of artist Daniel Dallabrida’s current exhibition, discussed below…

“I want today’s young gay men to realize that those of us in our fifties and beyond have something to offer,” local artist Daniel Dallabrida told John and I over drinks at the  Eureka Lounge a few weeks back.

“Those of us who lived through the AIDS crisis can walk down the street here in the Castro and feel like we’re invisible today, in this culture of Glee and gay marriage and kids coming out in junior high school.”

Even the setting of Dallabrida’s current exhibition addresses the tensions and connections embedded in his art: His photography and photographed mixed-media collages are on display through next Wednesday, March 28, at magnet, the Castro’s sexual health services center, where so many of today’s young gay San Franciscans are regularly tested for HIV.

The small exhibit, titled  In Now’s waters burn the stars of Then, features works that combine Dallbrida’s casual, snapshot of denim clad, mustachioed gay men circa 1980—the united, unknowing members of a generation soon to be decimated—with posed, slickly lit images of twinks, bears, pigs and other self-proclaimed subtypes torn from the colorful party flyers that confetti the Castro today.

 

Juxtaposed poles: Daniel Dallabrida decoupaged photos of gay men from the 1970s on a phone pole across from a Manhunt Mobile billboard

When I first took in the show’s collages, I couldn’t immediately identify which era’s images were intended to be in the foreground versus the background; their two-dimensional display effectively collapsed the decades between present and past, now and then. By quite literally placing two generations on a level playing field, Dallabrida composes a pictorial embodiment of his social ideal, inviting us to see similarities as much differences.

“When you hear the phrase ‘Now and then’, Dallabrida explained to us, “You tend to think ‘then’ means the past. But ‘then’ can mean the future, too: ‘What will it be like when gay marriage is legal in the United States? When there’s a cure for AIDS? When gay rights are common around the world? What will it be like then?’”

Through his art, Dallabrida suggests that rather than being stereotypically disparate generations of gay men, we represent each others’ pasts and futures; the present may sometimes feel tense, but we should collaborate on a Future Perfect.

Learn about another important gay art exhibition here.

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