I am thrilled that I have re-established my relationship with the French Embassy of Cultural Affairs. Some twenty years ago I used to take photographs for various embassy projects (and even got to shoot Piccaso’s lover, and mother of his two children, Francoise Gilot). The Embassy is housed in a stunning Stanford White designed mansion on Fifth Ave. and 79th St. AND fortunately for us we have a reason to visit. The embassy is hosting an intriguing pop-up show titled, ‘Galerie Cinema’ now on view in the mansion’s second floor salon through April 10th. The group show consists mainly of photographs by directors Cedric Kaplisch, Atiq Rahimi, cinematographers Ed Lachman and Agnes Godard, actors James Franco and Vincent Perez, photographers Kate Barry and Harry Gruyaert and director/photographer Raymond Depardon. The Deputy Cultural Counselor sums up the show’s focus best, “The Galerie Cinema combines two essential mediums for French culture — film and photography — and gives New Yorkers an inside look into the modes of creativity that makes France’s heart beat…” I met a fabulous french woman at the opening who turned out to be Anne-Dominique Toussaint, who opened the first Galerie Cinema in Paris. She was instrumental in bringing this show to New York. She explained to me the artists were chosen because they all reinforce the Embassy mission to “promote French-American intellectual and creative exchange.” You must go for a chic kiki, it’s so prune.
On March 7th, 1965, Alabama state troopers, and a local posse, viciously attacked civil rights demonstrators in Selma, stopping a planned, peaceful march to the state capitol in Montgomery, wounding many innocent marchers. That day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” the failed attempt that followed, and the victorious third march were all filmed and photographed extensively. The impact of this imagery caused national outrage that ultimately led to the Voting Rights Act passing into law later that year. Three compelling photographers captured the marches with three distinct perspectives, Charles Moore, Spider Martin and James Barker. Their work, featuring over 150 original photographs, (many that have never been exhibited in NYC before) are now on display at the Steven Kasher Gallery through April 18th. The images are accompanied by informative captions that are well worth reading. Make sure to start at the beginning of the exhibition as the chronology is impactful and the emotional path most riveting. What an extraordinary opportunity Mr. Kasher has given us to really get into the heart and soul of the marches that rocked our nation and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. Make time to have a look on the 50th anniversary of this remarkable event.
Unless you’re boring, you have probably dealt with censorship of some kind or another, hello, Facebook and instagram! I mean what’s wrong with an ass or a dick pic? Flaunt what you have — trust me, someone out there is gonna like what you have to offer. The suppression of speech just sucks. The Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is having an exhibition in response to censorship. “Inspired by the creative and activist responses to the censorship of Robert Mapplethorpe’s art in the 1980s and 1990s and the more recent withdrawal of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” from the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, “Irreverent” explores how sexuality has been, and continues to be, used as a tool to prohibit LGBTQ cultural artwork.” The show features 17 artists who illustrate about “a dozen episodes of exclusion and censorship.” I’d say go and see this show before it gets taken down on. Maybe you can even take your peen or boobs out while you’re there, I am sure they’d love that.
Kehinde Wiley is a tour-de-force, a gorgeous gay, gap-toothed African American painter who persistently “raises questions about race, gender and the politics of representation by portraying contemporary African American men and women, using the convention of traditional European portraiture." Now that’s a mouthful. His new exhibition, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic features nearly 60 paintings and sculptures, a retrospective of sorts that spans Wiley’s prolific 14 year career. His subjects replace the European aristocrats rendered in old masters with the new contemporary men and women wearing fly sneakers, hoodies and baseball caps, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives. His process is enticing, casting subjects from the street, having them pick a historical image they would like to portray in a photographic portrait, which they pose for with the resulting image transcribed into paint. Beyond the work I have come to know Kehinde as a kind, generous deeply positive soul. You see it in his smile and know it from his work. Go ahead, see for yourself!
When Fashion Shows The Danger Then Fashion Is The Danger
There were cockrings and cockatoos galore at the opening of Bernhard Willhelm 3000: When Fashion Shows The Danger Then Fashion Is The Danger, the iconic German designer’s first American museum exhibition, at MOCA PDC in Los Angeles. Artists and fashionistas — including Luke Gilford, KESH, Niko the Ikon, Michel Gaubert, and Pamela Anderson — socialized over gallery floors carpeted in blue Astroturf (click here for the gallery of guests). Along walls covered in blue and yellow paint splatters, Willhelm and longtime collaborator Jutta Kraus installed photographs of models, birds, and the designer himself (in crotch-hugging spandex suits), the forehead plumage of white cockatoos mimicking Willhelm’s spiky bleached ‘do. In the center of the main gallery, eerie mannequins with glowing tongues folded through miniature cockring-ballgags assuming defiant poses, dressed in Willhelm’s fall collection: a profusion of mesh, camouflage, straightjackets, and giant zippers like an Orientalist military assault on a mental asylum.
The show was designed as a site-specific, “thinking-forward” installation, announced by the title’s “3000”: the photographs, paintings, sculptures, and new fall clothing line displayed are an irreverent response to the uniformity of fashion in the 21st century and a radical manifesto for fashion in the 30th. Wilhelm presents viewers with a playful, postapocalyptic vision of the year 3000, when fashion will finally be liberated from an endless recycling of past styles.
Willhelm and Kraus recently moved their studio from Paris to Los Angeles, following the likes of Saint Laurent and Rodarte. If this exhibition is any indication, Los Angeles’ playful and image-obsessed culture promises to surface in Willhelm’s rebellious, punk-inspired designs. As the show’s title suggests, Wilhelm’s clothes are radical precisely because they reject the bland uniformity of mainstream couturiers. He shows us the danger of becoming the same and offers us the tantalizing danger of difference.
The exhibition is up until May 17, 2015. Check out some images from the show below:
The Opening reception of BERNHARD WILLHELM 3000: WHEN FASHION SHOWS THE DANGER THEN FASHION IS THE DANGER
Scenes from the event at the MOCA Museum in Los Angeles
Swedish photographer, Hasse Persson’s latest photo anthology, Studio 54, published by Max Strom, chronicles the rise and fall of the legendary discotheque started by two gay entrepreneurs, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Opened only for three years from ‘77 to ‘80 before getting shut down by the IRS, Tax authorities, and police raids, Studio 54 was doing something right. Populated by guests ranging from Warhol to Jagger to Capote, it was a hotbed of cosmopolitan chaos. Persson’s crisp, street-style photographs, captured using a secret recipe of flash and long exposure, pulse with the disco tracks spinning behind them.
A glance like this into a “hedonistic half-way-house between heaven and hell” is something to cherish; the queues to get in were so dense Frank Sinatra couldn’t even make it through the crowd to present his personal invitation, and Warhol had literal nightmares about getting rejected. Rubell, queen dictator of the door, accepted only a specific regiment of partygoers, a “tossed salad” of races, queers, and celebrities. Beyond the candid beauty of the images Persson presents, they are the skeleton key to a club you probably couldn’t get into.
His book is filled with energized black and white photographs, packed with scantily clad socialites and dazed celebs alike. The pictures whir with lights, masks, and glitter-smeared bodies stumbling down the avant-garde rabbit hole that was Studio 54.
Jake Yuzna is an interesting young artist/director. His current show ‘The Future is Medieval Today’ is based on the theory of The Gutenberg Parenthesis which “speculates that we have entered a new period of storytelling, which recalls our oral traditions found before the printed word; a time when stories were ephemeral. Narratives were easily shared, manipulated and changed by everyone who experienced them.” Basically, because of the Internet, stories are constantly evolving, like they did before books. Jake’s show explores that through video, projection mapping, and live oral storytelling. Expect references to the online meme “Slender Man,” the Bible, Cinderella, and at the opening a screening of the CBS miniseries “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenét and the City of Boulder.” Sounds like some wild shit. And well worth a trip to Brooklyn if you’re not from around those parts.
Tom of Finland's Early Work 1944–1972 on view until March 07, 2015.
Tom of Finland, born Tuoko Laaksonen in 1920, was the granddaddy of modern gay culture. His fetishes and fantasies, inked on paper and seen around the world, reconceptualized what it meant to be a gay man. A series of his drawings spanning 15 years are on view in the inaugural show of David Kordansky’s new space, and it’s interesting to see pornographic works made for bedrooms and underground gay bars in the clean white cube of a contemporary art gallery. How times have changed.
Tom’s wartime experiences furnished him with the visual vocabulary of hypermasculinity. The show’s earliest works, completed in 1944 when Tom was serving in the Finnish Army, depict military men wearing butt-hugging riding pants in explicit sexual trysts. They’re a testament to Tom’s bravery and openness in a severely homophobic time, when drawing gay sex privately could have landed him in prison. Other graphite drawings show sailors, cowboys, and motorcycle studs with ballooning muscles and impossibly large cocks. In many, the only “sexual” contact is passed off as lockerroom fun or friendly roughhousing, probably because the images were made for circulation and had to pass European censors. But the figures are beautifully detailed, each bronzed hunk glistening under imagined sunlight, further evidence of Tom’s expert draftsmanship. By 1972, Tom proudly defied censorship with Kake (pronounced Kah-keh), his leatherdaddy alter-ego, who appears in a comic strip storyboard called T.V. Repair, a centerpiece of the show. Kake lures a hunky TV repairman over by unplugging his set and, well…you can imagine what happens next.
Tom’s characters created a new gay culture that queered the masculine codes of straight society and made it possible for men to feel like men while loving other men. His masculine archetypes liberated gay men from homophobia, giving them confidence in a world that stripped them of it. After Stonewall, city streets around the world were packed with Tom’s sailors, athletes, and leather daddies. A new culture had been born.
The show is on view at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles until March 07, 2015.
Scooter LaForge‘s second solo exhibition at Munch Gallery centers on a cross country road trip undertaken with Johnny Rozsa in 2013. Bringing along 3 dogs and a copy of John Steinbeck‘s Travels with Charlie (a 1962 work on the famous authors adventures with his canine), LaForge sketched and painted his way across the US. Utilizing a landscape familiar to both writers and artists, the final result is less Steinbeck and more Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac, with chaotic imagery intermingling with dark subtext. “I started to draw and paint small details of beauty that caught my eye” LaForge writes, and these details certainly stand out. Shining something like the light of a perverted abstract expressionism on the banality of the images seen on long highway trips, Travels with Johnny hints at the connections left behind on the road.
The opening reception for this show is on Thursday, January 29th, from 7:00-9:00PM. The exhibit is sure to be a colorful ride, with the artist forced to recount the grueling work he put in for the 15 pieces on display that took up the last year and a half of his life. All art is personal but with the trip including pit stops for portraits and visits with family in Utah and Arizona, the intimacy of the images should be self-evident. Moving between those connections founded on family and those found on the road, Travels with Johnny processes and amalgamates the details of butterflies caught in spider webs in Pennsylvania and bullet holes spotted on abandoned buildings in Indiana, drawing on the ways we all connect, or don’t, with the world passing by around us.
Munch Gallery, 245 Broome St. NY, NY.