The show is comprised of works on paper from the 1970’s based on Wright’s observation of and participation in the febrile world of gay sex clubs, nightclubs, and bathhouses of the era.
Jimmy Wright moved to New York in 1974, following a period of graduate study at the Art Institute of Chicago in which he engaged with the emergent group of Chicago Imagist artists. His work from the Chicago period reflects his upbringing in a religious family in Kentucky, with serene and mystical scenes of baptisms and other non-Christian spiritual imagery. Upon arriving in 1970’s New York, he immersed himself with the same fervor in the thriving gay scene of the period, frequenting the bathhouses, discos, and sex clubs that flourished in that heady post-Stonewall pre-AIDS moment.
The drawings, done from direct observation and personal experience, evince a sense of immediacy similar to that of Toulouse-Lautrec in fin de siècle Paris or George Grosz in Weimar Germany. The technique is varied, with some works in a sooty, smoky graphite, some quick and cheeky in pen and ink, and others tenderly rendered in gouache and watercolor. The sex club drawings are raw; the bathhouses romantic.
Wright stopped making this body of work as the AIDS crisis wracked the gay community and New York changed. The extant drawings from the period as such serve as a dreamlike document of an oft mythologized cultural moment.