The pioneers of psychedelic gay liberation theatre
The Angels of Light experimented with drag, make up, drugs and performance in their journey for sexual liberation
"Myth Thing, Flaming Hot Exotica Erotica, Titillating Titresses of de Amazon, Ghoul Diggers of Transylvania and Peking on Acid. If that sounds like something you're into then you should really get familiar with the legacy of The Angels of Light. Founded by the now-late Hibiscus (aka George Harris Jr, who passed away in 1982) – a fascinating character with a huge beard, who experimented with drag, make up, drugs and performance in his journey for sexual liberation – they were a free theatre group that formed in early 1971 in San Francisco, and took a fancy to headlining their performances with such names.
Self-confessed hippies, The Angels of Light riffed on the ideology of communal living, sharing and the end of private property for the group’s performances. Previously members of The Cockettes – a psychedelic theatre troupe who included members like "queen of B-movie filth" Divine – who caught the attention of Andy Warhol and Truman Capote, and gained the cult following that ultimately led to a disagreement between the group over being paid for gigs and remaining as a free entity (the latter, something Harris Jr was passionate about). From this split, The Angels of Light formed, putting on shows that challenged gender and sexuality, with loosely scripted fantasy stories, homemade sets and hand-crafted costumes.
While images of the troupe are scarce, one of its early members, Tashi Shimada, is releasing a set of 10 photos as postcards, revealing an intimate slice of the 70s, with the images never having been published before. Launching at the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 this weekend – published by Wild Life Press – we get a glimpse at them here."