Gabriel Martinez’s elegy for Fire Island



Gabriel Martinez’s elegiac exhibition “Bayside Revisited” invokes the historic potency of Fire Island, New York, as a gay fantasy space and safe haven. By integrating archival materials related to the community into new prints and an installation, Martinez augments the current historical canonization of queer culture and the AIDS crisis recently seen in Keith Haring retrospectives and the Tacoma Art Museum’s “Art AIDS America” survey. This exhibition’s anteroom displays a digital collage of vintage gay magazine ads while melodies drift through a suede curtain. When the curtain’s drawn aside, a dimly lit room emerges, revealing Untitled (Bayside Projection), 2015, a spinning mirror ball installed low to the ground that casts a dappled projection of a segment from Wakefield Poole’s celebrated art-porn film Boys in the Sand, 1971, onto a wall sparkling with sand and glitter. The film’s setting, a notoriously cruise-y stretch of Fire Island’s beach and forest, recurs throughout the exhibition in large-scale metallic prints and a slide presentation, titled Meat Rack, 2015, of tenebrous trees.Also casting a shadow here is Boys star Casey Donovan’s death from AIDS-related complications in 1987. A solarized print series, “Radial Projections,” 2015, captures a disco ball’s reflections that resemble cell structures. Mounted on the other side of the film projection wall is Live Hard, 2015, a sort of memorial quilt gridded with lightly used black-patterned handkerchiefs on wood and laser-etched with a depiction of a part of the island recently decimated by an accidental fire. The impact on this major queer-identified space, when so few exist, reverberates heavily.