Gay men have a language all of their own. Or so suggests Hal Fischer in his series Gay Semiotics, on view at Cherry & Martin Gallery in Culver City, California until February 21. Fischer photographed men on the prowl in the Castro and Haight Ashbury districts of San Francisco in 1977 as part of a tongue-in-cheek photo essay, labeling the elements of each man’s outfit as part of elaborate cruising codes. The result is a conceptual look at the “gay uniform.” It explains how totally ordinary items in the straight world like handkerchiefs and keychains, when worn in the street by gay men, tell other men about the wearer’s sexual fetishes.
The “semiotics” in the series title refers to semiotic theory, which claims that images and even objects — like words — carry abstract, symbolic meaning. A close-cropped photograph of two asses clad in tight jeans with handkerchiefs in opposite pockets explains the semiotics of “Gay Hanky Code:” “A blue handkerchief placed in the right hip pocket serves notice that the wearer desires to play the passive role during sexual intercourse,” and so on. Other more traditional portraits are broken into types: the Street Fashion Jock in labeled satin gym shorts and Adidas, the Street Fashion Leather in chaps and leather boots, the Street Fashion Basic Gay in flannel shirt and Levis. By merging gay subcultures with art theory, Fischer pulls conceptual photography out of the museum and into the streets (and the back alleys).
The black and white images of mustachioed leathermen in high-wasted flare jeans feel a little dated, maybe because cruising has gone digital. In today’s gayborhoods, though, uniforms have changed but are still in fashion. Fischer’s exhibition is actually timely: it makes us ask how our rapidly evolving hook-up culture has changed the way we communicate and express ourselves in public spaces.
Tangled in my sheets and lying on your back, I watch you turn to greet the soft light of a sun that has just begun to rise. Your body is still asleep, but your mind is so awake. I keep a box of photos by my bedside, relics of the ancient civilizations of me, Incarnations of self like all of the cities I’ve set fire to — and I show them to you sparingly. Photos of the life I lived before you, back when I had bruised lips and hips and knees that knocked when I walked. Back when everything in my life was a habitual as breathing. And I have never been too easily satiated. Things that take a little with others seem to take a lot with me. I’ve spent the formative years of my youth wondering why nobody told me growing up would be so hard. A master at placing the blame, I’ve been running in circles and howling at a starless sky.
I’m spending the final years of my youth wondering why nobody told me falling in love could be so easy. An amateur at real feelings, I am breaking down my walls and my thick skin, howling at the moon in Texas. I am far from that person now. Rolling over in the morning, twisting in my slutty white sheets, I pull you closer and I am far nearer to the person I could be.
That magic, it’s a head rush. It’s a high that the drugs can’t match. A dream of elsewhere, I can feel it in my bones and my heart. It’s a lot like happiness. It’s a lot like hope. It reminds me of the last glowing ember of yet another city in the dust at the end of summer. Hot winds and habitual hauntings. A sixteen-hour dream state that breeds a new kind of fire. It’s one of those things you can feel but can’t see. Like wind. Like love. Like ghosts.
I know, that’s a looooong title for a show but I feel compelled to tell you about it before it closes this Saturday, January 17. What I can discern from the exceedingly high brow press release from the Gagosian Gallery is that Takashi Murakami has created these new works in response to his exploration of Japanese art produced in the aftermath of historic natural disasters. There are several vast canvases, quite colorful and seemingly playful yet dark in tone with elements of sci-fi, manga, Buddhist and Shinto imagery.
In addition there is an enormous 56 ton replica of a sanmon (sacred gate) that guards Buddhist temples. Due to the expansive proportions of the gallery, Murakami is able to exhibit works the size of which you rarely see in a setting of this nature. Enough said, if you can make it over to Chelsea by Saturday have a look in on one of the more captivating shows I have seen yet this new year.
Samuel Fosso was born in 1962 in Cameroon. At the age of 13 he opened his own photo studio. During the day he would take portraits for paying clients, at night he would turn the camera on himself shooting some of the best selfies of the last century. “Fosso’s expressive black-and-white self-portraits from the 1970s make reference to popular West African culture — musicians, the latest youth fashions, and political advertising — constituting a sustained and unprecedented photographic project that explores sexuality, gender, and African self-representation.”
Fosso’s photos dressed as Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis, Patrice Lumumba, Halie Salassie and many other African American leaders are beautiful, evocative…they are quite frankly the cutting up. We suggest you take the first opportunity to see Fosso’s work, and don’t be afraid to take a selfie in front of Fosso’s wonderful selfies, we think he’d like that.
Here’s a preview of the work you’ll see at the gallery. All images © Samuel Fosso. Courtesy The Walther Collection and Jean Marc Patras / Galerie.
FREE, 12:00PM-6:00PM, The Walther Collection Project Space, 526 West 26th St. Suite 718. NY, NY.
Who knew that in addition to being one of the most provocative and perverse filmmakers alive today John Waters is also a brilliant fine artist? He is having an opening of new works at Marianne Boesky gallery this Friday called ‘Beverly Hills John’ and I’m sure the cast of characters in attendance will be nothing less than fabulous, with lots of kiki-ing going on. “His photographic work since 1995 has taken on politically charged topics like ‘cinematic correctness,’ religious lunacy and media manipulation” subject matter not far from that found in his films. Apparently the new body of work deals with more personal matters — childhood, fame issues, his fear of false glamour and nouveau riche comforts. In addition to the photographs there is a 74 minute video titled, ‘Kiddie Flamingos’ a table read of John’s X-rated cult film Pink Flamingos rewritten as a kids movie with an all children cast. Wow, what an impact, the gallery explains the show as “..a call to viewers to overthrow hierarchy and interrogate the very value systems in which we all participate.” Basically John’s point-of-view in a nutshell, I say AMEN to that, see you at the opening.
The performance artist Ryan McNamara performed during Art Basel, Miami...we missed it, but everyone said it was fantastic which is why we’re super excited to see his most recent work premiering this week at the new Mary Boone Gallery on 5th ave. Here’s a random fact about Ryan (and us) we were a part of one of his earliest performances. We were dressed in togas (along with about 40 other boys), and we had to create our own movements. We kind of rolled around each other and on the floor for like 20 minutes. It was weird, and lots of fun. In his new show, Gently Used, “McNamara stages the relationship between “live” art and its math and aftermath, between event space and gallery space, giving special attention to the rub between the handmade prop and the mass-produced object. Like McNamara himself, all the works here are used — touched, felt, lived, riven.” Sounds deep, right? I’m sure it will be superb, Ryan always manages to surprise.
Benjamin Fredrickson, a New York City-based artist originally from Minneapolis, opens his first solo exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in Chelsea on January 8. His show features “unique polaroid photographs” that document his years as a sex worker in the Midwest, his community of gay men, and his private sexual life. As the press release states the constant theme throughout this body of work “is the longing for, and sometimes the event, of human connection.”
In his images you’ll find lots of thrilling nudity and fetish content. We had the chance to ask the artist a few questions and he was generous enough to share with us a preview of what to expect in the exhibition, which is running until February 28, 2014.
When did you take your first photograph? Many years ago, my interest in photography began when I was a teenager, in high school.
Why did you decided to document your sex life? I was interested in documenting my queer community and my personal experiences, the sex part comes with it.
Do you only shoot film? Yes. I shoot on film using various medium and large format cameras. For this project I shot on Polaroid instant pack film. I studied photography and was taught by amazing instructors on how to create a photograph using conventional analog photography methods.
How long were you a sexual worker for? Are you still a sexual worker? No, I am not a sex worker any longer, that was done years ago before moving to NYC. I’ve worked at a grocery store, been a sex worker and a salesperson for Opening Ceremony. Those were all jobs. I learned a lot from all of them and forever grateful for the life experience that they have provided me.
What do you think separates your work from other artists creating provocative homo erotic work? By being a subject and not just a witness. Using the “erotic” to spread a broader message of awareness, the stigmas attached to sex work and HIV within the queer community and beyond, it’s for everyone. Also I am a professional photographer with a degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Aside from that I think it’s really based on perspective and life experience.
What is it exactly that attracts you to nudity? I’m attracted to the level of trust and respect that comes from a subject when they agree to be photographed nude, at their most vulnerable. Nudity isn’t the only impetus of this project but it is vital. I strive to capture an honest portrayal of the person I am photographing. I put myself in front of the camera, not out of vanity but to experience what my subject experiences. Quite simply it’s only fair to do what you ask of others, so I photograph myself out of respect for my subject. I strive for authenticity and emotion when photographing nudity.
Do you have a muse? I consider everyone that I photograph a muse. I also revisit and rephotograph my subjects. The passage of time and it’s relationship to the body is beautiful to me.
What other artists do you admire? I admire all artists who are brave and make work that provokes critical dialogue. I really admire Larry Sultan‘s work, especially his project “Pictures from Home,” he created amazing photographs of his parent’s during their retirement, exploring ideas of love and sociology. I also admire William Klein for his groundbreaking photography and films, his courage for challenging racism within the fashion industry with his editorial work.
Where and when were you happiest? I’m happiest in the present moment and when I think of the future. I’ve never been happier actually.
What do you want people to take away from your work? I hope to create a thoughtful dialogue and that people will take a closer look beyond the surface and deeper into what the work represents. My work isn’t for the queer community, it’s for everyone.
Below is a preview of images from the current exhibition:
Hotel Gaythering hosts the first queer group show during Basel 2014
From December 4th-7th the “hetero friendly” Hotel Gaythering will be hosting the first Queer Biennial during Miami Art Basel 2014 titled “Art on the Edge in a Warm Climate.” Bringing together some of the biggest names in the Queer art world. The show features a large range of different media, from installations to drawing salons. It’s curated by Rubén Esparza and presented by Alex Guerra and Sephan Ginez.
Some of the featured artists (which include some GAYLETTER friends and contributors) are Rick Castro, Ben Cuevas, Rubén Esparza, Connie Fleming, Jon Vaz Gar, Angela Gleason, Glen Hanson, Chasen Igleheart, Josef Jasso, Brian Kenny, Bruce LaBruce, Alex La Cruz, Scooter LaForge, Jeremy Lucido, Ian MacKinnon, Slava Mogutin, Mel Odom, Gio Black Peter, Miguel Angel Reyes, Robert W. Richards, Tawnie Silva, Jacques Smith, Alonso Tapia, Joey Terrill, Maurice Vellekoop, Rich Yap, Austin Young and the list goes on. If you are in Miami this week and want to take a break from the massive fair and possibly run away from some of the most pretentious galleries in the world this is the place for you. If you are not into queer specific art, maybe because you are homophobic or ashamed of being gay, or simply “don’t like labels” but you want to get laid during the day, you’d probably have a good chance here. They’ll be hosting several receptions during Basel on December 4, 5, 6, 7, from 7:00PM – 11:00PM — told you, there’s gonna be plenty of cruising!
This is one of those exhibitions that I’m really looking forward and you’ll be into it too if you love zines and art books. Printed Matter has been a pioneer in the field of art books, independent printed publications and “a nerve center for New York’s alternative arts world for four decades” The exhibition Learn to Read Art: A Surviving History of Printed Matter at the 80WSE gallery “surveys the entirety of Printed Matter’s history, combining materials from their recovered archive, a satellite location of their bookstore, and onsite artist publishing residencies. In essence the exhibition functions as a biographical portrait of Printed Matter as an organization, its evolving work and expanding mission of serving the artists’ books and publications community for almost 40 years.” There's going to be some amazing pieces on display, and it should be a wonderful trip through the history of one of New York City's most worthwhile organizations.
Slava Mogutin & Brian Kenny's collaborative show is on view in Madrid through Jan 30th. Pictured here is a performance during the show by Brian Kenny, Leo Rydell Jost, Miguel Lahuerta Berazaluce & Roc Alemany at La Fresh Gallery