“Sex Crimes,” organized by ClampArt and Ward 5B, explores queer culture as it has been historically defined by legislation in English-speaking countries outlawing sexual relations between consenting adults of the same gender. These draconian laws, interchangeably referred to as Crimes Against Nature, Unnatural Acts, and Sex Crimes, have led to mass incarceration, institutionalization, conversion therapy, public shaming, familial rejection, and the wholesale death of gay people.

The exhibition “Sex Crimes” provides artwork and literature with homosexual content that was often created in a shadow world of criminality, organized crime payoffs, and under the threat of arrest. These pieces, aimed primarily at gay men, were often passed surreptitiously from person to person. Producers of the artworks faced imprisonment and harassment if they were caught.

The body of work presented in “Sex Crimes” provides a window into the camaraderie and defiant response of sexual outlaws to governmental, religious, and cultural homophobia that has historically criminalized them. Until the Stonewall riots in 1969, gay people had not collectively organized in resistance to repression and discrimination. And it was not until 2003 in Lawrence vs. Texas that the US Supreme Court finally ruled that nonremunerative sex between consenting adults in private was protected by the Constitution and could not be criminalized.