Documents from the Closet
As the United States fell under the shadow of the Cold War in the early 1950s, politicians like Senator Joseph McCarthy accused untold thousands of people of being communists, but also cast a wider net for “subversives” that included people who did not conform to conventional gender norms. The resulting demonization of LGBTQ+ communities has come to be known as the lavender scare. Over the past decade, conceptual artist Ryan Patrick Krueger has rifled through countless archives, yearbooks, and eBay listings to uncover photographs of men interacting with each other with affection, tenderness, and camaraderie. The assembled images reveal a variety of coded behaviors that bypass the public gaze but speak volumes to queer individuals.
Documents from the Closet is Krueger’s most ambitious assemblage of images to date. Found photographs are juxtaposed with a variety of ephemera drawn from queer newspapers and magazines. These images, created for specifically queer spaces, acknowledge coded behaviors through camp, satire, or by dispensing with them entirely. Krueger painstakingly arranges and rearranges this printed matter to evoke the march of history through semiotics and visual cues like fashion choices, graphic design, and material culture. From the lavender scare to the AIDS crisis and beyond, Documents from the Closet reminds viewers that despite increased visibility and rights for LGBTQ+ individuals, many of these coded behaviors still exist as coping mechanisms for society that still silences and punishes nonconformity.
Ryan Patrick Krueger is a lens-based artist whose work addresses themes of masculinity and friendship. Their process includes collecting vernacular images and appropriating photographs in order to consider the intersections of LGBTQ+ American history and photography. Krueger holds a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, and currently lives in Syracuse, New York, where they work as Digital Services Coordinator for Light Work, a non-profit artist-run photography organization at Syracuse University.