OK, these images famed book publisher Taschen just sent me by the legendary artist George Quaintance worked my last nerve. I know, I’ve been wearing that expression out (especially all over Fire Island of late) but when it fits, it fits. I am wholly embarrassed to say that I knew nothing of this artist until about twenty minutes ago. George was a true trailblazer making erotic blatantly homosexual themed works in the forties and early fifties. “George Quaintance lived and worked during an era when homosexuality was repressed, when his joyful paintings and physique photos could not depict a penis. In an era before Stonewall, the sexual revolution, gay rights and the AIDS crisis, Quaintance and his high camp erotic art existed in a demi-monde of borderline legality.”
I mean this George had balls, literally and figuratively, creating this hot and horny kind of imagery way back in the day. His show titled “The Flamboyant Life and Forbidden Art of George Quaintance“ opening July 3, at the TASCHEN gallery in LA is, if you can believe it, the first public show of his works-ever! He only made 55 oil paintings in his lifetime that spanned the years 1902-1957 and until recently were only traded amongst a very private select few. In addition to George’s work the show is rounded out with pieces by Tom of Finland , who George greatly influenced, as well as photographs by Bob Mizer. I almost need to get on a plane to see the works in person but as it’s the 4th of July and the show comes down the end of August I’m gonna stay on the east coast and try my best to get laid!
11:00AM-6:00PM, TASCHEN Gallery, 8070 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.
Trust me, you need to know about the work of Tseng Kwong Chi. I’ll apologize up front for not inviting you to the opening of his exhibition, but hey, I didn’t know about it either. The Grey Art Gallery at NYU is hosting the first major museum retrospective of Tseng’s work: Performing For The Camera until July 11th. Sadly, Tseng died at the age of 39 from AIDS-related complications but not before he left a prolific, diverse and ground-breaking body of work. There are fascinating Polaroid photo montages, celebrity portraits of Basquiat, Warhol and Tseng’s intimate friend Keith Haring as well as 12 works from his classic series of selfies (before they were ever on the map) titled East Meets West, that evolved into the Expeditionary series and more. In many of these series Tseng chose to wear the somewhat drab, yet classic, Communist Mao suit with an ID attached to his jacket. He photographed parties as diverse as the Met Ball, and Republican political events and his work is included in the Met’s current exhibition “China Through The Looking Glass,” on view through August 16th.
I was not prepared to process how diverse and unquestionably visionary Tseng was — a revolutionary, fearlessly entering social, artistic and political environments (with a camera) the Chinese never gained access to prior. “In exaggerating his difference into an exotic mystique, Tseng found a way to infiltrate spaces typically closed to Asians and other minority groups.” Take some sun in Washington Square Park, sip a beer in a brown paper bag, cruise hot and horny NYU boys looking for guidance then check out the show.
Here’s a preview of the show:
All images are courtesy of Grey Art Gallery.
SUGGESTED $3, 11:00AM-6:00PM, Grey Art Gallery, NYU, 100 Washington Square E. NY, NY.
When I saw my first Tom of Finland image as a small, curious, yet closeted gay teen I was utterly flabbergasted. Never before had I seen such a bold and titillating expression of male sexuality that I think subconsciously influenced my taste in men. Born Touko Laaksonen in Finland in 1920 Tom of Finland I am told is considered to be the most iconic gay artist of the 20th century. Artists Space is having an opening for their new exhibition of Tom’s work with more than 180 drawings from the 1940’s and over 300 pages of collages and early childhood works. By now I’m sure you’ve seen one or two of his masterfully executed drawings with the focus on cock, cock, and more cock. “His emblematic larger-than-life drawn phalluses not only threaten the existing symbolic order of heterosexuality, but also reorganize the principles by which (homo-) sexual desires are structured.” Oh, ok, I just thought they made gay men hot. Of interesting note, Tom had his first gallery exhibition in New York, facilitated by the help of his friend Mr. Robert Mapplethorpe who he met in 1978 in San Francisco (that must have been an interesting evening). Please tell me you’re in town this weekend and your half share on Fire Island hasn’t started yet. I would love to see you at the opening to have a few beers and possibly sleep together. Mossy’s back!
FREE, 6:00-8:00PM, Artists Space, 38 Greene St. 3rd floor, NY, NY.
I HAD to tell you about this show before it comes down this Saturday. There are very few living legends left in the art world, therefore when one performs, exhibits or makes a public appearance it is imperative that you attend, especially if you live in the city where it’s going down. Painter Malcolm Morley is one such legend and his current exhibition of new works at Sperone Westwater is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, 84 this June 7th, Morley has been turning the art world on it’s head for over five decades, securing his place in art history early on in his career with the “highly colored Superrealist paintings of ocean liners and the luxurious but vacuous life of their passengers.” Actually one such canvas’ “On Deck,” painted in 1966, hangs in the permanent collection of modern works at The Metropolitan Museum. Returning to visual themes that have been pervasive in his works from the onset, the new exhibition is more vibrant and colorful than ever, and includes imagery of ships, airplanes, trains, lighthouses and impeccably crafted models attached to the canvas, or free standing, made entirely out of watercolor paper. Housed in an extraordinary Norman Foster designed building on the Bowery, Morley’s paintings may just prove to be the perfect antidote to this unusually grey and chilly weather we are having.
Even if you’re a fan of the present, most of us have a specific era of the past we wish we’d lived in. Often our notions of this era are shaped by an artist who was immersed in the spirit of the times, mingled with its eminent personalities, and somehow managed to bottle its zeitgeist through their paintings, prose, or performances. If you’ve ever thought your golden era was the 70s and 80s in New York City underground, photographer Paul Zone lived the life you wish you had.
As an adolescent, Zone was “that kid,” mobbing through the concrete jungle as boywonder sidekick to the drag queens, rockers, and junkies who defined the moment. Fortunately for us, he always brought his camera. The candid, intimate images he shot as a teenager of some of the most epic personalities of those wild decades are now being released in his new photographic memoir. The fierce folks at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, in association with veteran NYC arts impresarios Tony Zanetta and Kymara Lonergan, are launching the book with an exhibition at their Prince St. location (Prince Street Project Space,127-B Prince Street).
The memoir is called Playground, and the solo exhibition, called Growing Up In The New York Underground: From Glam to Punk features over 70 of Zone’s images of music icons including Debbie Harry, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, T. Rex and KISS, as well as the era’s most memorable artists and scenesters like Patti Smith, Arturo Vega, and James Chance.
The Opening Reception and Book Launch featuring DJ Miss Guy and Host Howie Pyro is May 29, from 6:00-9:00PM, and the exhibition stays on display through May 30th and 31st from 12:00-6:00PM. If you’re planning on picking up a copy, consider stopping by for an Author Talk and book signing on May 30th from 4:00-6:00PM.
This is art show is really a no-brainer for us as it’s curated by Walt Cessna and features pretty much all of our favorite artists. There’s Michael Bilsborough, Bubi Canal, Walt Cassidy, Jordan Eagles, Alesia, Exum, Benjamin Fredrickson, Leo Herrera, Brian Kenny, Naruki Kukita, Scooter LaForge, Brett Lindell, Slava Mogutin, Diego Montoya, Gio Black Peter and many more. The exhibition “is emblematic of a shifting time in the art world where technology allows artists to not only create in a different way, but also alters the way the public encounters them and their art.” All the artists in the show, according to the gallery notes, “became friends and colleagues through social media.” I would venture to say that is not completely true as I know for a fact that many of these artists knew each other way before Facebook and Instagram appeared on the scene, but whatever it sounds good in a press release. Their should be plenty of cute boys at this event (I mean with Gio, Slava and Naruki involved that’s guaranteed), and with performances by BoyWolf and music by DJ Sheba Legend, it promises to be more lively than your average art opening. So scrub up pretty k?
Walt Cessna, curator of Interface, sits down with us at the Leslie Lohman Museum to talk art and politics in the 21st century moment.
Walking through the shops and outdoor cafes of SoHo on a spring day can be soul crushing, and overcoming the desire to snuff out your cigarette in that snatched blonde’s $35 plate of truffle fries can take tremendous focus. Surrounded by people whose level of wealth is eclipsed only by their level of Basic, you feel the loss of the vital art that once thrived and then died here, the ghost of which now stares at you blankly from the glittering sockets of a limited edition Damien Hirst skull.
If you’ve ever felt this way, head to the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art on Wooster Street to see curator Walt Cessna‘s show, “Interface: Queer Artists Forming Communities Through Social Media.” There is still a living heart buried in SoHo, and on a day when the New York Times is announcing Chrystie’s first “Billion Dollar Art Sales Week,” signifying everything that is wrong with the art world, “Interface” at the Leslie Lohman is a sexy and fascinating exploration of what’s right with it.
Photographer/club kid/former fashion terrorist Cessna has gathered a truly heterogenous group of “mostly New York-based artists with active studio practices” who all “have (or have had) active relationships with social media” in an effort “to understand how this truly 21st century confection could create community and bring success to these artists.” What emerges is a titillating and uplifting picture of the 21st century working artist: entrepreneurs who can tap into the queer potential of a democratized online world to display their work, interact with fans and markets, and connect to each other outside the tyranny of galleries who must cater to the über rich.
“The show is a bit of a hodgepodge,” Cessna says, “painting, photography, illustration, video, installation, performance, sculpture, embroidery and needlepoint, everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.” Furthermore, there seems to be no prevailing similitude between how the artists in the show use social media; their various relationships to it are as different from each other as their work is. This broad spectrum of relationality underscores how the social media experience has changed the art-making, not just the art-promoting, game: while most of the artists have utilized various online platforms to build their brands, show their work, and find markets that say “yes” in a world of galleries saying “no,” some of them have gone so far as to incorporate a consciousness of social media into their actual creative process. Take Ben Copperwheat, whose “Divas” series featuring depictions of Madonna, Diana Ross, Joan Rivers, and BritCunt Margaret Thatcher is on display in the show, and who embraces the use of Instagram so thoroughly that “the nature of the square format has led me to create my compositions to work within the space to maximum effect.”
The means of distribution is shaping the work at the site of its production. In reading the artists’ statements it’s clear that Cessna has gathered creators whose relationships to social media aren’t all peaches and glitter; plenty of the artists speak of it with annoyance, or ambivalence, or an admission that the relationship has changed over time. Artist Chick Byrne captures a kind of generational ennui, remarking that “social media had its birth for me around the time I turned 12. AIM and chat rooms were it, and everybody was typing…. Now that I have spent more than half my life on social media, the appeal has mostly faded. My online presence is minimal and my eagerness to use it just as low.”
With a mix of swooning nostalgia and electrified conviction, Walt harkened back to the days of the Early 1980s East Village art scene, stitching that moment to the present with common threads of a “do-it-yourself aesthetic and punk ethos,” as well as a seismic shift in the economic and practical aspects of how and where art gets consumed. Today it’s tumblr feeds and Facebook walls, in 1982 it was subway cars and bathroom stalls. It was a time when the prevailing gallery system was being challenged by radical means of dissemination, as well as artists who were determined to subvert the calcification of the “proper” art world. Many of these artists were queer, and their ability to think outside the box was a result of lives that had been lived in society’s margins. Walt looks for this unabashed ferocity in queer artists today, dismissing those who put “less of their penis online and more of their commerce,” — those who might sublimate authentic queer radicalism for the kind of bourgeois self-consciousness that can sometimes emerge in the wake of increasing online success. Cessna has no patience for artists who “look correct but have no politics,” especially in an age when the problematic side of social media can mean that “hitting the like button excuses you from having to think about it at all.”
With its focus on queer methods of resistance and conscious art-making for a new age, “Interface” could not have a more appropriate home than the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Founded like a giant “fuck you” to death during the darkest days of AIDS, a time when gay businesses and galleries faced extinction as gay corpses mounted with no end in sight, Leslie Lohman has been serving queer resistance since day one. They own their space (as well as the 7,000 sf of space next to them which they’re about to take over), and in 2011 they made the critical jump from a gallery to a fully accredited museum — the strategic importance of which should not be missed: as a museum with an endowment, rather than a gallery dependent on sales (which must always be sky-high to satisfy the vice grip of ever-rising SoHo rents), the Leslie Lohman can perform a critical function in our community, allowing their rotating guest curators to build shows that don’t need blue-chip sales, shows that can focus instead on queer artists who deserve to be seen but haven’t yet received the powerful benevolence of exposure in prestigious galleries. Thus, Walt Cessna can fill his show with the artists who he knows to have politics as rigorous as their aesthetics, without giving a shit as to whether or not they can command million dollar price tags.
Walt talked passionately about how the Leslie Lohman is not known enough by the young and the hip of the NYC queer art world, and his hopes that this show can help enlighten that particular crowd to the vital role the museum can play in furthering the kinds of democratization and destratification that social media platforms have already begun for queer artists. The museum can promote those who might be stuck in what Walt called “a kind of online purgatory, where they’re known as an Internet celebrity, but they’re not in the galleries yet. Here, the fans get the chance to physically view the artists’ work, and something happens in that space between the viewer and the work that can’t happen online.”
Below is a preview of what you’ll see at the show:
‘Interface: Queer artists forming communities through social media’ is on view from May 15-Aug 2, 2015 at Leslie-Lohman Museum, 26 Wooster St. NY, NY.
Zanele Muholi calls herself a visual activist. Her photography, video and instillation exhibit, Isibonelo/Evidence, the first major museum show of it’s magnitude in the United States or elsewhere, powerfully and undeniably explores, celebrates and promotes visibility for the black, lesbian and transgender communities of South Africa. Patrick, Abi and I descended on the show’s opening day, to interview and photograph Zanele for an in-depth profile. She proved to be a razor sharp tour de force as she lead us step-by-step through the show, so generous with her time and spirit, extremely knowledgeable about the LGBTQI history of South Africa and it’s context in the global community. The first thing she said to break the ice when we met was,“You’re so gay!” Loved it. Best known for her striking series of black and white portraits of black lesbians and trans men called “Faces + Phases” (shown in it’s entirety in print and slide show format), it’s a series “which uses firsthand accounts to speak to the experience of living in a country that constitutionally protects the rights of LGBTQI people but often fails to defend them from targeted violence.” Hence the wall of copy adjacent to the portraits that tracks the incessant hate crimes that transpired against the LGBTQI community. On a more celebratory note, the next room houses a series of colorful and joyous images of gay and lesbian weddings from Zanele’s inner circle in addition to a video of the artist making love to her lover, totally out of focus, but with the soundtrack totally intact. This exhibition is housed just one floor below Kehinde Wiley’s retrospective “A New Republic” and across the hall from Basquiat’s “The Unknown Notebooks.” It could not be in better company nor provide a more poignant environment for such revolutionary and important work.
I started “going out” — but OUT when I was 16 was in 1979 when the blood ran thick and cold in the streets of the Meatpacking district and you didn’t want to linger on a steamy summer day, the stench would gag you. But, oh the nights, any season, were truly magical, all the most exciting bars and clubs were there, something for everyone: The Anvil, The Mineshaft, The Lure and even a place I dared to go in called Hellfire. I hadn’t thought about those places in ages until I happened upon this extraordinary show of black and white documentary photographs of the era called, “A Buried Past, Forgotten Stories: The Sexual Underground of the Meatpacking District before Gentrification — The Photographs of Efrain John Gonzalez,” (now on view at the visionary bookstore, gallery and performance space BGSQD in the LGBT Center) I found a succinct quote about Efrain that might clue you into the aesthetic push and content of his photographs: “An internationally published photographer who for the past 30 years has been seeking real life images that tells a story of people finding the paths to their souls, finding their bliss with piercing, branding, cuttings, tattoos, implants, leather and a whole lot of radical sex and sexuality.”
You can’t help but feel a bit like a voyeur peering at these intimate images of the meatpacking district, the streets, the clubs and all the crazy kinky sex people were having in them. Be sure to map out some time for your visit because the bookstore and its contents also need close scrutiny. And if for some crazy reason you haven’t gotten your hands on issue #2 of GAYLETTER, no worries, they have one there for you. If you love the show and your curiosity is piqued, come back on May 20th at 6:00PM, Efrain is giving a talk and a slideshow covering 40 years of his work.
FREE, WED-SUN 1:00PM-7:00PM, BGSQD 208 W. 13th St. room 210, NY, NY.
Today the new incarnation of the Whitney Museum of American Art opens downtown to the public, in a Renzo Piano designed building on Gansevoort st. The opening brings one of the city’s major art institutions downtown, into a neighborhood thoroughly changed from a time when the blood of slaughtered meat ran through its cobblestoned streets. The museum’s inaugural exhibition, “America is Hard to See,” follows a roughly chronological path through American history, with works entirely drawn from the Whitney’s permanent collection. The building is clearly feeling itself, as works by Donald Moffett, Claes Oldenburg, and Félix González-Torres, as well as a temporary exhibition on the 5th floor terrace by Mary Heilmann, seem to bask in the new space. I found one of the most powerful sections to be the chapter titled “Fighting with All Our Might,” which included a print by Jose Clemente Orozco and a drawing by Paul Cadmus, both decrying violence against black Americans in the 1930s. In an exhibition centered around American identity, their works stood out as terrifyingly relevant today.