Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.
The writers of the Beat Generation, many of whom were gay or bisexual, endorsed gay rights as a part of their rebellion against inhibition and self-censorship.
The Comedy of Manners, which flourished on the Restoration stage, has been particularly amenable to twentieth-century gay male writers as a vehicle for social satire in both dramatic and nondramatic works.
Using his and his family's experiences, particularly his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, and his own wacky perspective on life, David Sedaris has become a world-famous humorist, comedian, writer, playwright, and radio personality.
From the great modernist writers of the 1920s and 1930s to the pulp writers of the 1950s to the lesbian writers of today, lesbian novelists have had a powerful impact on the lesbian community.
From its beginning, the nineteenth century in England had a purposeful homosexual literature of considerable bulk, both male and female, though it was fettered by oppression.
Persecuted for his homosexuality by the Castro government he had once championed, Cuban novelist, essayist, and poet Reinaldo Arenas challenged all types of ideological dogmatism.
Baudelaire was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.
Detail from "Raymond Maxwell" (1986) by George Dureau. Courtesy Higher Pictures Gallery.
Dureau is best known for his male figure studies and narrative paintings in oil and charcoal and for his black-and-white photographs, which often feature street youths, dwarfs, and amputees. Critic Kenneth Holditch has observed that his best work is laced with paradoxes: "the joyful and painful, the beautiful and ugly, the spiritual and sensual, and most significant of all the real in sharp juxtaposition to that which is vividly imagined."
"Wilbert Hines" (1977) by George Dureau. Courtesy Higher Pictures.
In his glbtq encyclopedia entry on Dureau, Claude Summers writes that "Dureau's photographs have often been compared with those of Robert Mapplethorpe. But the influence runs not from Mapplethorpe to Dureau but from Dureau to Mapplethorpe. The photographers were friends in the early 1970s. Mapplethorpe was greatly moved by Dureau's photographs, even to the point of restaging many of Dureau's earlier compositions."
Dureau and Mapplethorpe--both white men--have often chosen African-American subjects for their art. Mapplethorpe's Black Book (1986) is better known than Dureau's work, but it is also quite different. The book comprises a series of brilliantly composed photographs of black men as seen through the lustful eyes of a white gay photographer. The book's images present black men as deliciously alluring objects of the homosexual male gaze and little else. African-American artist Glenn Ligon effectively characterized Mapplethorpe's work as racist in his own piece Notes on the Margin of the Black Book (1991-1993), which juxtaposes Mapplethorpe's images with comments by accomplished African-American leaders and intellectuals. Ligon's piece has the effect of turning Mapplethorpe's one-dimensional sex objects into complex, interesting people.
"Raymond Maxwell" (1986) by George Dureau. Courtesy Higher Pictures.
George Dureau's work is not susceptible to the same criticism. As Claude Summers has observed, Dureau's work is distinct from Mapplethorpe's chiefly because it is characterized by an empathy and kindness absent from Mapplethorpe's photographs. It is that empathy and Dureau's interest in depicting and finding beauty in amputees, dwarfs, fat men, and others who are not usually considered beautiful that makes his work such an important contribution to the gay male tradition in photography.
Visit the Higher Pictures website for more information about the exhibition's hours and location in New York City.