The LOVE of Robert Indiana – one of Pop Art’s most enduring emblems – is currently on display at various locations in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), as part of the ‘Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958 – 2018’ exhibition. A 12ft version in classic red, blue and green dominates the park entrance; a corten steel LOVE Wallwith the word in quadruplicate, is proudly displayed outside the Bothy Gallery, while the illuminated The electric LOVE lures visitors to the Underground Gallery, which houses the interior elements of the exhibition. These are messages of strength, resistance, hope and joy, conceived nearly six decades ago in another politically turbulent era, but still resonating today, especially in the month of Pride. So it’s fitting that YSP took inspiration from Indiana to create a series of events and projects called “Summer of Love” (June 21 – September 22, 2022), focusing on contemporary LGBTQIA+ performers and celebrating “human relationships.” , understanding and love between people.’
Indiana, who was gay, made references to his sexuality in his artwork, although these had to be kept discreet at a time when homosexuality was being criminalized and stigmatized. Still, “he often paid tribute to other LGBTQIA+ artists, writers and poets, and was an advocate for many social ideologies,” such as the Civil Rights Movement, explains YSP curator Sarah Coulson. (Indiana also defended indigenous rights and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.)
Inspired by Indiana’s inclusive spirit, “Summer of Love” contemplates “how love can be festive, but also incredibly complex and difficult,” continues Coulson. The program examines “how queer identity is being explored and expressed in a contemporary context where, despite decriminalization and increased rights in many countries, LGBTQIA+ people are often still subject to the prejudice and lack of understanding and empathy that Indiana experienced.” ‘
The core of ‘Summer of Love’ is the exhibition ‘On Queer Ground’ (July 9 – September 4) in the Bothy Gallery, with artists exploring the queer body and identity in relation to landscapes. Compared to urban spaces, rural environments tend to accept less gay people; the exhibition looks at how artists navigate their queer identity in these spaces and find a sense of connection. Among them is the young West Yorkshire-based artist Claye Bowler, whose video piece Not much further (2020) is an allegory for his ‘burden of dysphoria’ and waiting for top surgery. He carries a sledgehammer and a plaster cast of a female torso, representing a version of himself he can change as he traverses a rural landscape. ‘It feels like I’m on a sort of pilgrimage, to sacrifice something,’ says the artist.
Above: Claye Bowler, Not much further (almost there) (2020). Thanks to the artist. Above: R.A. Walden, Crip Ecologies Archive (2022). Thanks to the artist
Meanwhile, Berlin- and London-based artist RA Walden, whose work seeks to challenge the simplistic understanding of disabled bodies, shows their Crip ecologies project, consisting of glass jars and petri dishes that preserve the flowers, soil, leaves, seeds and other natural elements encountered by the artist. The project archives the artist’s limited involvement with the natural world due to their disability, placing the fragility of the body in relation to the fragility of our ecosystems.
Bowler and Walden are joined by Sadé Mica, who stayed at YSP for a few days in April to explore the landscape and make a new film work; SHARP, who also shows a new piece, Tomorrow there will be no landing at the lighthouse† Whiskey Chow, a performance artist and drag king who has combined filmed performance and CGI animation to transform a queer body into a dreamscape; and Ro Robertson, who was an associate artist with Yorkshire Sculpture International in 2019.
Above: Ro Robertson, Birth Accrual Shift (2022). Thanks to the artist. Above: Whiskey Chow, You have to wander everywhere (yet) (2021). Commissioned by Queering Now and Chinese Arts Now. Thanks to the artist
Outside we come across a number of contemporary sculptures that touch on human connections, rights, prejudice, access, love and loss, including Robertson’s Stone (Butch) (2021), their first major open-air sculpture, inspired by a novel revealing the oppression of lesbian and trans identity. Identifying as queer and non-binary, the artist created the 2-meter-tall sculpture by plastering directly into fissures in natural rock formations in St Ives Bay, Cornwall; in doing so, they give physical shape to a negative space created by the power of the sea. Previously screened in London as part of ‘Sculpture in the City’, Stone (Butch) now sits in a clearing among the trees. “When we placed the statue, there was a glorious sunshine that made the colors sing. In the fall, the rusted Corten steel will sing along with the fall leaves,” says Coulson.
She continues: ‘Outdoor and public sculpture that explores identity beyond the cisgender and heteronormative is still rare. Robertson’s work sparks conversations about who is represented in our public space.’
Wakefield-born artist Jason Wilsher-Mills, who was paralyzed from the neck down as a child, created an outdoor display titled Jason and his Argonauts in Love, centered on a 10-meter-long inflatable sculpture that addresses fundamental human rights and respect. Visitors go through a tunnel inside the sculpture, reading words from people with lived experiences conveying the importance of Changing Places toilets – enabling all people, regardless of their access needs, to use toilet facilities with dignity. With his work, Wilsher-Mills emphasizes that access and rights systems are still not the same for everyone.
A look back at the path, by sculptor Roger Hiorns, uses a compressor at certain times of the day to generate huge clusters of bubbles, which travel across the landscape blurring the lines between art and landscape. The work aims to bring people together to experience moments of fascination or pleasure, no matter who they are or what differences exist between them.
Roger Hirons, A look back at the path (2008), as shown at Navy Pier, Chicago in 2017. Photography: James Richards
The same notion of communal humanity is also evident in Yara + Davina’s artists Arrival + Departure (July 22 – August 14), resembling a pair of airport arrivals or departures signs. The public is invited to visit arrivalsanddepartures.net to submit the names and stories of those who have recently entered or left this world, which will be displayed on the boards in real time. “We invite the audience to think about who they want to celebrate in birth and death, but also very much the journey in between,” says Davina Drummond, one half of the duo.
Yara + Davina, Arrival + Departureinstallation display at Brooklyn Academy of Music, 2021. Photography: © Sam Polcer
‘Summer of Love’ also includes a series of workshops by artist and art psychotherapist in training Thahmina Begum, exploring a broad spectrum of emotional responses, including ‘anger, sadness, forgiveness, belonging, empathy and love’, to recognize differences and at the same time to emphasize what brings people together. Within the YSP Center Restaurant, artist and illustrator Soofiya was selected from an open call to create a vinyl mural, in bold and bright colors and a combination of text and images of everyday life at YSP – Highland cattle, sheep, people walking dogs and the use of booster scooters. Coulson likes that it “clearly describes important messages about how broad notions of love can be, and how acceptance and representation are so central to them.”
Throughout his six-decade career, Robert Indiana emphasized the importance of coexisting with justice, spoke of the need for compassion, and celebrated human diversity. ‘Summer of Love’ hopes to do the same and bring people ‘inspiration, strength, comfort and joy’, summarizes Clare Lilley, director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
“We feel very strongly where people really need to come together, really respect each other’s differences and understand what it’s like to be a community.” I