Roy DeCarava. “Couple Walking,” 1979. © Courtesy Sherry DeCarava and the DeCarava Archives.
Curators Zoe Whitely and Mark Godfrey subdivided a mass of 150 works from as many as 60 to occupy 12 rooms at the gallery. They also set an austere tone for the exhibition, as if to prepare the visitor’s mind, placing five screens at the entrance with each one playing, on a loop, speeches any luminaries including King, Malcolm X and James Baldwin.
Sylvester was San Francisco’s biggest star and Cowley’s muse – a larger-than-life presence around town, dressed to the nines and often carrying multiple shopping bags as he walked down Castro Street. Cowley most famously worked with Sylvester on the ecstatic mega-hit You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and was a pioneer of the genre known as hi-NRG, a relentlessly uptempo variant of disco that gained serious traction, especially in the UK and Europe.
Sylvester, and Patrick Cowley (left) pose for a portrait at the mixing board in a recording studio in circa 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives)