Suddenly, Mexico City is popping with LGBTQ+ art shows, with two large exhibitions at the Museo del Arte Moderno and the Centro de la Imagen. Queer Mexicans no longer need to beg for scraps but can feast on major art installations. This proliferation of LGBTQ+ art allows for greater choice between different visions for sexual-dissident art—and for how to process the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis.

MAM is exhibiting Imaginaciones Radicales, a collection of queer modern art from Mexico. Meanwhile, the Center is exhibiting Positivo/Negativo, a collection of photographs related to HIV/AIDS from the 1980s and 1990s in Mexico. Together, the two shows propose distinct visions of queer art.

Imaginaciones Radicales is a friendly invitation for viewers to encounter queer Mexico. Circling the central atrium of the gallery, the exposition leads a tour through the LGBTQ+ history of Mexico—from the infamous Bailes de los 41 to the contemporary struggles

Imaginaciones announces a politics of inclusion. Predominantly composed of portraits, the show introduces museum-goers to the diverse faces of queer Mexicans, with works like “Autorretrato con Concha” by Juanjo Saínz. With an archive of many photos, the show showcases queer lives as equal members of the Mexican nation. Educational wall-texts teach terms like “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” And many of the works appropriate familiar Mexican symbols, like images from the series Cantos Xenobinarixs by Lechedevirgen Trimegisto

Juanjo Saínz

Juanjo Saínz, “Autorretrato con Concha,” oil on cloth, 2017

Gertrude Duby

Gertrude Duby, “Amelia Robles, la Coronela, y su ayudante,” contemporary print, 1941

As I visited the show, I was surprised that Imaginaciones included only a handful of works of activist art about HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, the Centro de la Imagen provides another perspective.

At the center, the exhibition Positivo/Negativo promotes a queer aesthetic that is both narrower in focus and more militant in its politics. The show focuses on a specific theme: images from the fight against HIV/AIDS in Mexico in the 1980s and 90s

Yolanda Andrade

Yolanda Andrade, “Signo de interrofación (Polo Gómez como la Comandanta Remona),” 1994

Rock contra sida

Ahumada, “Rock contra sida,” undated

The topic is especially urgent, as the current president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has overseen the highest rates of AIDS deaths in Mexico in the last 20 years (large due to medicine shortages in the health sector).

With photos like “Signo de Interrogación” by Yolando Andrade, as well as concert posters like “Rock contra sida” by Movimiento Abrazo, the exhibition highlights a forgotten history of a furious queer anarchism that did not courteously seek acceptance, but that ferociously attacked straight Mexican society’s callous response to AIDS.

Other works, like “¡Oh, santa bandera!” by Nahum B. Zenil, openly mock the state with a camp sensibility. And one entire gallery, dedicated to “Informed Eroticism,” exhibits art that advances porn and promiscuity as political practices of mutual aid

Nahum B. Zenil

Nahum B. Zenil, “¡Oh, santa bandera!” mixed media on paper, 1996

Also on view throughout Mexico City are even more LGBTQ+ art exhibitions, like “Voces disidentes” in the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América, and “My Famous Age” in the Centro Cultural Xavier Villarrutia

Together, these shows exemplify how Mexican queer art is telling the world that, within the LGBTQ+ movement, art and politics are not binaries but spectrums. Queerly, there are no easy dichotomies between liberal and radical, between positive and negative, between the struggle for acceptance and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

A.W. Strouse, Ph.D., is currently writing a book about the LBGTQ+ history of Mexico City’s subway system. He is the author of Form and Foreskin: Medieval Narratives of Circumcision (Fordham University Press) and Gender Trouble Couplets (punctum). Follow him on Instagram @putotitlan