“What do gay people do when they’re not having sex?”
On the Domestic Front: Scenes from Everyday Queer Life answers that age-old question. Opening August 14th at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, this collection of prints, paintings, and photographs explores both the uniqueness and universality of everyday queer life. Split into four distinct parts, Home, Work, Play, and Fantasy, the exhibit chronicles the shifting landscape of the LGBTQI movement. “The queer fight has shifted from our right to be different toward the right to be “normal” and unremarkable. Queer genre imagery is a weapon in our battle to secure what we might call the radicality of the ordinary.”
The selection of work comes from the Museum’s private collection, offering an opportunity to see work that has, in some cases, never been displayed publicly. Some of the featured artists include Saul Bolasni, Joan E. Biren, Del LaGrace Volcano, and Caleb Cole. It might just sound like photos of queer people doing regular things, but 3 critical questions revamp the imagery: “Do we perform these activities in distinctive “queer” style(s)? Do we represent them artistically in a distinctive way? And, do we look at such images differently?” From the age-old to the hyper-relevant, this exhibit has answers for everyone.
Below is a preview of the show — All images courtesy of Leslie+Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art:
FREE, Opening Reception 6:00-8:00PM, Leslie + Lohman Museum, 26 Wooster St. New York, NY.
A group exhibition curated by William J. Simmons in Los Angeles
We’ve all got our own queer fantasies. Surprisingly enough, not all of them are about TD Bank flying the rainbow flag. OHWOW Gallery’s current exhibition, Queer Fantasies, explores the voices and histories that deviate from these increasingly normative and commodified discourses. It opened on July 11th and it goes down this week, on August 15th. But if you’re hoping for ‘alternative fetish,’ you’re missing the point. “The artist in the exhibition come from different backgrounds and do not all depict explicitly gay subject matter in their work; they explore various existing histories through queer representation.”
Curated by critic and art historian Willam J. Simmons, the exhibit challenges stereotypical depictions of “the queer lifestyle” through a range of media from installations, to sculpture, to painting, film and photography. The group of artists spans across generation, gender, and background, coming together to create “a critical tool for the reformulation of normative art histories.” Hmm… sounds dense. Essentially, there’s some intellectual art happening here that’s finally telling stories that aren’t about upper-middle-class white people and the AIDS crisis. Lean in, there’s a lot to hear. So, if you are in LA, you still have a few days to check it out.
11:00AM-6:00PM, OHWOW Gallery, 937 N. Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.
I can’t help but remember my shaking hand inching into my best friend’s sleeping bag, advancing with terror and ecstasy. Matt Lambert’s most recent “autobiographical archive,” KEIM, stands on that threshold that separates man and boy, firmly grounded in the contradictions that define “coming of age.” It is soft and hard, confident and self-conscious. Although entirely white, his collection of Berlin boys herein feels quintessentially real; Lambert captures an intimacy that strikes at the trembling heart of exploration, vulnerability, and sex. “It’s sex as a way to kill the boredom, the pain, the angst, the good times and the bad. It’s the normalisation of sex; normcore as opposed to hardcore. It’s the daily, repetitive ritualisation aided by the app or laptop where Grindr or camboys take you into an anonymous, anodyne, often synthetic world.”
The book contains a zine within the larger narrative, VITIUM CONTRA NATURAM, a momentary departure into the dark, insatiable hunger that boils beneath Lambert’s lighter images. Imagine “Wild child” inscribed on the head of a hard dick. There’s literally a picture of that. The book itself feels curious, pulling you in and pushing you back, teasing your limits. “Keim is a special kind of secret. It’s a book wrapped in whispers, gossip, innuendo, rumor, myth, mystique, mystery.”
We had the pleasure of asking Lambert a couple of questions about his process. Check it out:
How long have you been working on this book? How did it begin? It’s a collection of photos taken between 2011-2014 and mostly in Berlin. As a filmmaker, photography was always an integral part of my creative process. The book is a by-product of spontaneous and intuitive work made during this time, but I never really had the intent to publish them all.
Can you tell us about your process of laying out the book? How do you pair your photographs within spreads to create dialogue between images? This process was a close collaboration between my favorite designers in Berlin, Studio Yukiko, and my publisher at Pogo Books. Since the majority of the book is pure photo and it’s a hefty 168 pages, we were looking for conversations between images and to build humour, movement and strengthen its narrative.
In what type of world do these photographs take place? What realities do you explore? They’re intended to live without time and place, but the underlying presence of Berlin exists in most all the moments. There’s a quiet confidence and open-mindedness people carry in them here that I’ve not found so universally anywhere else. With the exception of the zine within the book, most are intimate moments (not always sexual) that capture the tension before and after the release.
Beyond capturing the actual frames, what would you say your role is in these photos? This varies in every image. I’m almost always present and try to avoid voyeurism. Some are moments of hedonism, others capture a shared intimacy and the rest documents of conversions about life, love and sex — all are honest.
How do you find and choose your subjects? The majority of these images are friends or lovers and the beginning of this series began with Jannis — my first boyfriend in Berlin and now husband. More recently it’s sometimes friends of friends that reach out to me online or me to them. It’s all a pretty fluid reflection of my social life and I rarely shoot models.
The boys are clearly a certain type, young, slim, white, handsome. What else do you look for to know a good subject? How do you gain access to their vulnerability? I feel like my casting reflects a lot of the guys I see in Berlin and there’s something still a bit exotic about them to me. Personality is everything though and I struggle to shoot people who are just pretty. Most the people I shoot are gay and those who represent the spirit of youth in Berlin who are open and ambiguous in their identities. Access is pretty natural and trust through honesty and friendship has been the only way.
In what environments do your best photographs arise? This is pretty wide open, but generally it’s spaces where people feel at home.
How much does your work have to do with “coming of age?” The majority of my film work since living in Berlin explores these themes and I’ve recently completed writing and directing a TV series for a major network in the US that explores coming of age in love and sex. As our notions of self and intimacy evolve parallel to digital spaces, it’s a theme that is rapidly reinventing itself and has continued to stay fresh for me over the past 3 years or so.
Your photos appear to walk a line between intimacy and friendship, exhibition and pornography. How would you define the relationships these boys share? Every image is different and I like to maintain a level of ambiguity as to which of these categories an image falls into.
These boys appear distinctly ‘millennial.’ What is the role of technology in these images? Most everyone in this book is gay or a version of post-sexual-Berlin where fluidity, ambiguity in identity becomes the norm and binary definitions are discussed less and less. Outside of having found a few of them online, digital spaces have definitely played a major role in the ways they expire and define themselves and it feels like there’s an effortlessness and confidence attributed to this.
This collection of work seems to be split into two distinct parts. Why? The middle of the book is called VITIUM CONTRA NATURAM which breaks the monotony of a traditional photo book. It’s a two-color newsprint zine within the book and is part of a larger ongoing project with my husband, Jannis. It’s a throw back to the punk rock scene that first shaped me as a teenager in LA and a collective I was a part of with friends when living in London called BARE BONES.
If you had to pitch this book in a sentence, what would you say? It’s an autobiographical archive of intimate moments that mark the beginning of my film and photography work in Berlin.
Pick up a copy for yourself, the book is available here.
Well, at least we’re consistent. Tom of Finland is back. And he’s in your bedroom. A line of limited-edition pillows, crafted by Swedish luxury designer, Henzel Studio, pays homage to the artist we know and love. “The collection is ultimately a testament to both the revolutionary vision of Tom of Finland and the extraordinary craftsmanship of Henzel Studio, which has miraculously captured the artist’s mastery of line, form, and shadow.” The pillows come in three designs, each double sided with unique collages of original TOF work.
A slew of prominent contemporary artists including Jack Pierson, AVAF, Scott Campbell, Robert Knoke, Nan Goldin, Richard Phillips, Anselm Reyle, and Juergen Teller have contributed to the project, allowing Henzel to transform selected works of theirs into similarly lux pillows. At first, I questioned the artists’ decisions to sell their artwork in the name of leisure, but, after actually seeing and feeling the pillows, it’s obvious that these are not your average Throws. The cotton/polly blend is soft and durable, piping along the outer edge ensures no tearing, and, most importantly, the shape and size of the pillows frame the beautifully printed images perfectly. I have one on my bed right now and she looks f*cking fantastic.
OK, I started my GAYLETTER day at 9:00AM yesterday with an intense curbside meeting with Abi over a delicious cup of hot coffee served by an even hotter barista, now I’m ending the work day at 10pm after a fierce photoshoot by the Christopher St. piers on the West Side Highway at a bar called The Rusty Knot (with $4 beers all night long). Being one of the most preeminent cultural correspondents for GAYLETTER can be exhausting! So, on to another post about a must-see gallery exhibition (we wrote about the opening a while back) at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art called Interface: Artist Forming Communities Through Social Media. It’s closing August 2nd so this is your last week to see it. Some of our absolute favorite artists are in the show including Jordan Eagles, Natasha Gornik, Brian Kenny, Scooter LaForge, Slava Mogutin and of course Mr. Gio Black Peter. “This exhibition emblematizes 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.” Walt Cessna did a brilliant job curating the show. Before you pass out from this heat go go go to this show.
OK, this guy Burk Uzzle has a crazy amazing eye. His hot show now at Stephen Kasher gallery titled American Puzzles is sublime. The exhibition, up until July 31st, features over 70 vintage black and white photographs of the American social landscape from the 1960’s through the 2000’s. Do you know the brilliant work of American photographer Robert Frank? He took the photographs in the classic book ‘The Americans’ dealing with similar subject matter, well Burk, in my humble, yet professional photographer, opinion blows Frank’s work out of the water. As Burk notes, “These photographs are an appreciation of America. Their structure, like that of America itself evokes a melody of movement and collage — not an explanation.” I love that.
He started taking photographs at age 14 and by 23 became the youngest photographer ever to be hired by Life Magazine. Yes, he has work hanging at the Met, MoMA, and all over the world for that matter, but now you have the opportunity to see his work in Chelsea for free.
All images below courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery, NYC:
Summer is upon us which means that in the fine art world the gallerists are closing up for August and heading to the Hamptons, the South of France or (if they are super pretentious like this dude I recently matched with on Tinder, St. Barths.) Before everything shuts down there is a rare gem of a show by a major figure in the evolution of the Delta style of blues music, who also happens to be a MAJOR visionary sculptor. His name is James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas and his show, titled, “The Devil and His Blues” and is now up at 80WSE gallery through August 7th. Thomas got his “training” in Mississippi during his formative years by frequenting rural house parties called juke joints where all kinds of highly spirited madness went down including blues singing, dancing, gambling and drinking. What put Thomas on the map in later years, and earned him some coins before his music achieved worldwide acceptance, were his un-fired clay bust portraits often utilizing real teeth, dentures, found eyewear and wigs — they are genius. He did get into some other subject matter as well, “His birds, snakes, squirrels and fish are all representative of Delta wildlife in addition to holding symbolic significance in the African-American folk spirituality known as ‘hoodoo.’” There are 100 of these sculptures on view in addition to two brief, yet penetrating, documentaries about Thomas and his environs; a black and white film made in 1969, “Leland Mississippi,” and another film in color shot during the seminal exhibition in 1982 called Black Folk Art in America where Thomas was a major presence. This is a remarkable a chance to celebrate the extraordinary contribution African American artists have made to our culture, especially in the wake of all this hatred, racism, and church burnings going down of late.
I know, I KNOW, please no more Tom of Finland but I had to let you know about this exemplary talk going down at Artists Space this Thursday, July 16, at 7:00PM. It’s ironically titled “Drawing in a Straight Line” and will consider Tom of Finland’s influence upon and reception by artists as preeminent post-War gay icon. The moderator Bob Nickas will be joined by New York artists Collier Schorr, Nayland Blake and Carlos Motta — what a crowd. This cutting group of artists are so talented with divergent and overlapping socio-political elements to their work I imagine the chat will be quite deep and explosive. I never suggest this, but if you have a minute Google their names, space is limited.
“As queer art practice has been deconstructed through lines of multiplicity and intersectionality, so have historical understandings of power and deviation from dominant power, been complexified. For this reason the relationship between Tom of Finland’s work and contemporary artist’s practice remains important” Ok, now take a deep breath , I’m sure if you attend the talk that will make perfect sense to you by the end, let’s hope so, if not then just cruise your heart out!
$5 donation, members free, 7:00PM, Artist Space Books and Talks, 55 Walker St. NY, NY.
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.