Artist and hot curator discusses his latest endeavors
If you’ve never heard of Richard Hawkins before, now is the time to start Googling his name. Since the early 1990s, Hawkins has been producing some of the most evocative, incomparable artwork we’ve ever seen, all teeming with an undercurrent of homoerotic appreciation and longing. Using collage and sculpture as his primary medium (although branching out into just about everything else as well), Hawkins’ work has been featured in galleries across the world, and for good reason: with pieces that are as elaborate and carefully designed as they are rife with gay imagery and subtext, Hawkins’ work speaks to people all across the Kinsey scale, transcending what often ends up being a niche audience.
Most recently, the artist Hawkins co-curated ‘Tom of Finland & Bob Mizer,’ a retrospective on the two iconic gay artists now on view at MOCA in Los Angeles until January 26th. Also, currently on view until January 26th, 2014 at Le Consortium, Dijon is the his latest exhibition ‘Glimmer.’ We got to interview the LA-based artist on what his curation means to him, what his process is like, and why he’s newly infatuated with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Holy Mountain.” Hint: it has a little something to do with naked bearded hippie boys…
Where do you live? Los Angeles, old gay Silverlake
Where would be your dream location to exhibit your work? The Musee Moreau in Paris, definitely. Le Consortium, Dijon though was also a dream come true. The one that got away was Palazzo Fortuny in Venice. If you know this place — Moorish architecture, decayed walls hung with faded tapestries — you know it would’ve been perfect. I was ¾’s of the way through deliberations for a show there before it fell through. I think the problem was shipping — imagine one of my 10 tall haunted dollhouses teetering on the edge of a gondola.
You’ve used teen heartthrobs from the past like Keanu Reeves and Matt Dillon in your work. Do you have any contemporary favorites? I post found digital collages of Justin Bieber and Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker on my Tumblr account but never make any of my own. Though it seems like it would be perfect I can’t buy into the whole Twilight boybabe thing.
Are there any new artists that excite you? Elijah Burgher is exciting. His forays into sacred symbols, gay sprituality and the occult seem like really great manifestations of what has always been brewing with the Radical Faerie movement — just better.
You recently co-curated an exhibition on Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer. What about these two artists has impacted you the most? Has their art influenced your own work? I of course once worked for several years as Office Manager of the Tom of Finland Company and have been collecting Bob Mizer material for years so I’ve known and loved both artists works for at least a couple of decades. But the inspiration is less aesthetic and more one of position and practice. Both Bob and Tom were able to live in a world in which their desires were far from accepted but their solution was always to return to the studio and kind of passionately imagine new worlds into existence. There’s great inspiration for artists there: just follow your heart or your hard-on.
Where are you happiest? When you turn what you love doing into a profession you work all the time. I’m either in the studio or sitting in this chair at home writing a novel.
What’s your favorite medium to work in? Are there any that you haven’t used that you’re interested in trying out?I think I might have done everything except video and performance. Usually I follow obsessions until the medium I’m meant to be working in becomes obvious. But while I’ve spent 20 years making paintings and sculpture I always seem to return to collage. Even the new book of short stories has a basis in collage: something about reordering the existing world to suit your desires is always present.
Do you find the art world to be more supportive of queer artists now than it has been in the past? I started showing at the height of AIDS activism and the beginnings of groups like Queer Nation so, for me at least, I’ve only seen a great acceptance and even an open invitation to be as gay as you want in the artworld. It is heartening though to see such a grand array of queers showing in the 2014 Whitney Biennial: Elijah, as mentioned above, but also Tony Greene, Catherine Opie, Travis Jeppeson, Bjarne Melgaard, Ei Arakawa, Ken Okiishi, Gary Indiana and several others.
How do you do research for your projects? Is it a hands-on approach or do you prefer to use texts/internet to cull resources? It varies. If I’m writing I read everything I can find. If I’m painting I really try to go out and look at actual paintings in person. The most recent project on Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata though took 2 trips to Tokyo to visit the Hijikata archives in person.
There is a strong undercurrent of sexuality and desire to your work. Do you feel as though you set out to put these themes into your work, or does it occur naturally? I think as an artist it’s my privilege — if not also my duty — to talk about whatever it is I’m most interested in with my work. It just happens that boys are almost always on my mind.
Who are your role models? It took a long time to realize that I had intuitively built around myself not just a network but a whole family of gay uncles and brothers that I always turned to for guidance, support and advice. Many of the names you wouldn’t know. But being friends with the film historian Donald Richie in Tokyo was probably my greatest influence. While not a studio artist like Mizer and Tom of Finland, Richie spent a lifetime researching, writing about and promoting Japanese film but always found the time and patience to address any idiotic questions I might have had. I’m always hoping I have that same passion — but also, when I’m that age (Donald was 80 when he died early this year) the same tolerance.
What was the best piece of art you ever made? I don’t think in terms of best and worst. Just whether it’s as evocative as it can be of whatever I’m obsessed with.
What is the part of your process you enjoy most when creating a new work? What is most difficult?
I prefer the spinning, whirling, elated distraction of making what I make. Sometimes, when putting the work up on the walls, the fun is already over.
What is the last great artwork (visual, film, music, lit, performance, etc.) you were exposed to? I had actually never seen Jodorowsky’s “Holy Mountain” but was stunned when I watched it a couple weeks ago. It’s all the color I’d want in my paintings and all the complexities I’d like my writing to have. And there are naked bearded hippie boys — which I love. I’ve recently taken some time off from looking at most contemporary things … so, sorry, I can’t comment on that.
What are you working on right now? I may be finally coming to the end of the work I started two years ago on Tatsumi Hijikata. I havent done a final count but it seems like around 150 collages and books came out of the project. Many of which will be shown at Tate Liverpool in February. Otherwise I intentionally took time off from showing and spent a lot less time in the studio this past year to reacquaint myself with who I was in the early 90s. I’d seemed to have lost touch with the fact that I was a fiction writer and had the painter Tony Greene as my best friend. Tony died of AIDS in 1990 but I think I’ve completed archiving his estate and now, as I said above, he’s in the Whitney Biennial. The first book of short stories was published 2 months ago.
A new show exploring male erotica
Jim French‘s show of vintage polaroids is now on view at ClampArt in Chelsea. Shot in the late sixties the exhibition titled ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor‘ and the new book by the same name opened my eyes to a true pioneer in the world of recording the male physique. Better recognized by his pseudonym Rip Colt and the legendary Colt Studio he founded, French “…known for his perfectionism created classically-inspired and wonderfully composed photographs that largely established a standard and approach for the visual ideal of male sexual beauty.” Originally used as source material for his homoerotic drawings, the polaroids stand as a testament to the influence French had on such luminaries as Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts that followed.
We were fortunate enough to reach out to the 81 year old artist in his abode in Palm Springs and ask a couple of questions. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you find all these gorgeous men? Go to a gym: Throw $100.00 bills in the air.
When did you take your first photograph, can you describe it? Sometime around 1960. He was an airline pilot on vacation. The location was a barn in Sausalito. He loved his body, but who wouldn’t?
What photographers influenced your work? Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier.
How do you describe the original Colt aesthetic? The idea behind my Colt Studio was to present drop dead handsome men in ways that were creative, original and erotic.
Your polaroids are in pristine condition, how did you know to archive everything so impeccably? I bought a Polaroid camera when I was visiting Florida. I was instructed by a Polaroid salesman.
How did your military service influence your work? It helped teach me how to observe.
Did you ever date any of your subjects? Yes, one. We have now been together for 29 years.
We love Palm Springs, how did you end up there? I very often worked here when the weather permitted, and I dreaded more and more having to return to noisy, crowded Los Angeles.
Can we come visit you in Palm Springs? Of course. The weekday rates are much more reasonable.
What can I say, another exquisite show at David Zwirner Gallery. Occupying all three gallery spaces on West 19th street, the legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has taken over with 27 large scale paintings and two new infinity rooms with her latest exhibition ‘Who Have Arrived in Heaven.’ On view is “a new mirrored infinity room made especially for this exhibition and the United States debut of another infinity room, which was recently on view in Tokyo at the Mori Art Museum.” Work bitch, it’s all about infinity honey bitches. From an artist who I believe lives in a mental hospital I have never seen a more concise, explosive expression of human emotion. Don’t take my word for it go and see it for yourself. Be prepared to be patient you may encounter long lines to enter the infinity rooms, but it’s well worth the wait.
I’m still dreaming about the beefcakes after attending the opening of Bob Mizer’s latest exhibition ‘Devotion: Excavating Bob Mizer’ at 80WSE Gallery, what an amazing show. The exhibition is curated by Billy Miller and Jonathan Berger, in collaboration with Dennis Bell of The Bob Mizer Foundation. It’s Bob’s first “major institutional” solo show and covers several chapters of his illustrious career that spanned 5 decades, dealing with the male physique. I saw images of handsome men with their hair done that looked fresh and contemporary, just like the boys we want to fuck today. In addition to the artwork on view there are several stations of students archiving the multitude of costumes, negatives and Polaroids relating to his body of work. Bob Mizer is a pioneer whose ground-breaking imagery opened doors for so many artists, hence all the new male bodies gracing the walls of galleries these days. Thank you Bob.
Fierce Pussy develops an exhibition for World AIDS Day
For this year’s Day With(out) Art, the annual collaborative arts project held on World AIDS Day by New York-based contemporary arts organization Visual AIDS, the group enlisted the queer artist collective Fierce Pussy to develop its centerpiece exhibition. Titled ‘For the Record‘ curated by Risa Puleo, the text-based result examines the ‘what ifs’ of those lost to the AIDS pandemic, utilizing variations of the phrase “if he/she/they were alive today…” to incredibly powerful effect.
Printed on broadsides, the piece mourns the widespread loss of loved ones to AIDS while simultaneously opening a dialogue on the erasure of personal and collective memories from the pages of history. The artists of fierce pussy tapped into the cadences of contemporary culture to place the work in a very present, immediate frame of mind. “If she were alive today you’d be texting her,” one of the sentences reads. “If he were alive today you would have met him by now,” reads another. The pathos behind the seemingly simple set-up is nothing less than astonishing.
In conjunction with For the Record, Visual AIDS is also throwing a series of public events on World AIDS Day on December 1st. Billed under the subtitles ‘Talk, Walk, and Sing’, the events range from artist talks and public forums to a house and disco set at The Rusty Knot in the West Village. Check out the full schedule of events at the Visual AIDS website, and be sure to see For the Record in person at NYC’s Printed Matter, on view from November 23 – December 13.
Don’t miss the opening reception of ‘For the Record,’ Saturday, November 30, 5:00PM-7:00PM at Printed Matter, 195 10th Ave. NY, NY.
A postcard book by Aaron Krach
Let’s face it: in our crass 21st century world of hook-up apps, dating sites, and Craigslist ads, the art of pursuing a lover can sometimes feel, to put it lightly, pretty revolting. It appears that artist Aaron Krach picked up on that for his new book of postcards, ‘Things to Tell Your Lover,’ a collection of 21 unique photographs of found text — bits of signs, graffiti, and advertisements — which he has refashioned into bold declarations of love and lust.
The book is a perfect departure from our modern version of electronic courtship, turning distinctly metropolitan, mundane text and advertisements into bawdy valentines (a gold chain necklace beckons “Bite Me”; a garage expresses sincere erotic gratitude via a placard: “Thank you for coming”). The best part? Each postcard can be peeled from the book and given away to your own lover (or potential lover, anyway). And, honestly, what’s more charming than a handwritten note from a secret admirer?
The idea for the book comes from Krach’s online project of the same name, in which he photographs found text around New York and other cities he’s visited that inspires and invigorates him as an artist. On the website for the work, Krach has attracted hundreds of submissions from around the world, stretching from California to Qatar.
Check out the project’s website here to submit your own stimulating text, and be sure to stop by for the launch of the book at Printed Matter on November 22, 6:00PM-8:00PM.
I went on a fantastic spontaneous roadtrip to Washington D.C. with my friend, GAYLETTER contributor and groundbreaking artist Renee Cox. She had a couple of appointments with important curators there and I went along for the ride. I packed a black Juicy Couture corduroy blazer (cuz I know those queens love a lapel) a couple of french tailored pressed shirts, a nice bottle of red for the car, some tomme de savoie (that’s cheese), pistachio nuts and a cock ring. The drive down went by in a flash, we had so much catching up to do. We arrived at our host Shawanda‘s cute house dropped our bags, had a cocktail and pressed on to the spot that was hosting Renee’s cocktail party the next night for a boozy dinner, then straight to bed.
We woke in bright sunshine, Renee made a breakfast of fresh squeezed orange juice and steel cut oatmeal with maple syrup. While she went on to her meeting I investigated the National Portrait Gallery for the very first time. WOW, spent hours in that place. The exhibition of all the president’s portraits from Washington on was intense. Props to Bill Clinton for choosing Chuck Close to do his portrait. Apparently each sitting president chooses the painter they want to do their portrait-who knew? While deep in thought at the photo contest installation adjacent to the presidents, Renee texted me she was done. We met around the corner at OYA, a fabulous Japanese restaurant where we had sashimi, beers and a photo shoot in their black and white over-designed lounge. Then Renee split for appointment #2 and I went to the Corcoran Gallery for a brief visit. After it was time to head to the cocktail party.
I stayed in the background as Renee circulated effortlessly among the collectors and art patrons at the party. We went to a nearby french bistro for dinner where fortunately the waiter accidentally dumped a glass of red wine on Shawanda’s assistant and after some heated discussion, gave us the whole meal for free. Right to bed, no gay bars as promised, no need for the cock ring.
We woke early because Shawanda had to go to work and drove around for awhile waiting for The National Gallery to open at 10. We passed the Navy Yard where the shooting occurred which was sad. We parked right in front of the Capitol on the mall and had to run around chasing quarters for the meter…can you imagine? Begging for change from the cashier in the National Gallery gift shop while we are at the geographical epicenter of our government, how pedestrian! Once the car was sorted we went back into the National Gallery and saw an amazing tightly edited show of Kerry James Marshall as well as an enticing show of Ellsworth Kelley prints. But the true standout, for me at least, was the extensive exhibition about the Ballet Russes. We then tried to go back to Oya but they were having a private lunch for Trayvon Martin so we went to their sister restaurant whose name escapes me.
After lunch we hit the highway home with a stopover at the University of Delaware to visit Renee’s buff son and buy a computer at the local Apple Store and have some mall pizza. I then took the wheel to bring it on home back to our very own shiny apple. Happy to have gone, happy to be home.
Celebrating the publication of "2000 Words," a new series of monographs at Karma.
An artist presents a new vision for the male archetype.
Ooooo, daddy! The Bible has been rewritten. Tonight, November 7 at Printed Matter, photographer Blake Little will be launching and signing his newest book, ‘Manifest.’ This comprehensive treatise on gay masculinity features a series of images of big, muscly, burly, bearded men.
Hold up, let me fan myself off for a minute.
The photographs were taken both in and out of Little’s Los Angeles studio, as well as in England, Canada, and across the United States. Some images are solo portraits, and others capture moments between couples. Some are nude and some are clothed. All are remarkable photographs.
Little hopes his work provides a “specific vision of men, in their environments, in their relationships, in their skin.” Manifest is 124 pages with 104 photographs, and a special forward by straight bear daddy Nick Offerman.
So whether you’re a daddy, daddy-chaser, bear, bear-chaser, twink, otter, cub, queer, queen, lady, ladyboy, or whatever, Manifest is sure to inspire, captivate and satiate.
Here’s a preview of some of the men featured in the book…
Book launch and signing, Thursday, November 7, 6:00-9:00PM, Printed Matter, 195 10th Ave. NY, NY.
“A vanished place from gay American history takes physical form” quips New Orleans based artist Skylar Fein regarding his extraordinary feat of imagination and perseverance in building The Lincoln Bedroom right here in New York City (that opens at the C24 gallery this Friday night from 6-8pm and is up til Dec 21). Not the White House Lincoln Bedroom but the one Abe shared with Joshua Speed from 1837 to 1841 in Springfield, IL. The very room that sparked heated debate among scholars and historians as to whether or not Abe was homosexual. I had the pleasure of meeting Skylar who took me on a tour of the “re-envisioned” structure and was immediately taken back by the size of the bed (it’s tiny) that screams sex and intimacy. It’s not that both men had NO other sleeping options: Speed was from a wealthy plantation family and Lincoln was offered a private bedroom in the home of a wealthy lawyer — clearly the men chose to sleep together. My mouth was agape for hours after my visit having never deeply considered that the guy on the penny was gay. “Am I arguing that Lincoln was a homosexual?” asks the artist in the accompanying text, “I’ll give the answer right now: that question is probably unanswerable” Well trust Skylar, you sure make one hell of an argument that he is, thanks for the “heads up.”
Don’t miss your last chance to see Philip-Lorca DiCorcia’s impeccable first foray into street photography in the exhibition, ‘Hustlers’ a series of 36 prostitute portraits shot on and around Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. DiCorcia paid the prostitutes a fee loosely equivalent to what they would charge a john with monies he was granted by the uptight and sexually prudish National Endowment for The Arts, go figure. The images are exquisitely composed as DiCorcia meticulously preplanned each frame before he engaged the hustlers for posing. Although intricately staged and shot with a large format camera one New York Times critic noted, “Simple disquieting truths seep through their elaborate fiction” Also on view is a video installation, “Best Seen Not Heard” consisting of the hustler imagery projected on a large screen sandwiched by opening and closing credits from vintage gay porn movies. Go see for yourself, selling sex never looked so good.
We visited the solo exhibition of the German-born Turkish based “photo realist” artist, Taner Ceylan titled: ‘The Lost Paintings Series‘ — now on view at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea. We were told by a GAYLETTER reader to check it out. After we left the gallery we were so glad we’d had a chance to see these incredible detailed large photo realist paintings that “bespeak absolute technical mastery and precision, but which are also freighted with an emotional and sexual dimension.”
We were so curious how Taner creates these artworks, and how he picks his subjects, so we decided to reach out to the artist for an interview.
The show closes this weekend, October 26, don’t miss it.
When did you start creating art? I was born into an artistic family, therefore painting was always a normal daily activity in my life.
How does where you live (Istanbul) influence your work? The intellectual climate has changed dramatically in Istanbul in the past few years. It’s near to impossible to make an exhibition now. Especially if the subject is related to history, there is a sensitivity increasing…
How do you describe your painting technique? I am trained as a classical painter. I love abstract painting but it’s not my thing. I am into realistic painting and art critics describe me as a hyper-realistic painter. However, I am this description is not enough for my work. So I describe my art as “emotional realism.”
Do you work from a photograph? Yes, sometimes I start with a specific picture I’ve taken. Also, in some cases, I bring several photos together to create a composition.
The press release says: “The Lost Paintings Series assemble a cast of lost characters…” Who are the lost characters and why are they lost? These are the stories of the people that you cannot find in the written history. Some are forbidden gay love stories, some are passionate stories of women who followed their dreams in such an impossible atmosphere. I prefer to paint Murat the 4th., Esma Sultan, Hurrem Sultan, Yusuf Khan…
What’s the main message you’re trying to convey with the ‘Lost Painting’ Series? As we know from the orientalist paintings, the realism of the orient has nothing to do with it. My aim is to show the reality of the orient. These are the paintings for me that aren’t painted, lost images in history; I caught and recorded them.
Can you talk about the homoerotic element in your work? My earlier works were based on homoerotic subjects. Now homoerotcism is a part of my compositions (but not the main focus). I am trying to add more levels in my work, like history, and also heterosexual esthetics…
Paul Kasmin Gallery, 515 W. 27th St. NY, NY. Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00am – 6:00pm.
I’ve had a few months of reluctance in regards to this article. I kept asking myself if this was at all relevant and or appropriate for GAYLETTER — my desire to expose this character has since abolished my neuroses. GAYLETTER is merely a vehicle for revealing, promoting and discussing intriguing things and happenings of queer interest in New York City, right?
I happily present to you — Enormous Face. He’s an artist who apparently does everything. The first time I saw him I was under the influence, it was about 3:00AM and I was at the Bedford Ave. station. I was with a group of friends — we shared a real experience. Adorned in a leotard was Enormous Face, he was blowing repeatedly on a harmonica while performing a puppet show of nightmares. I heard one rather conventional woman say to her friend “is it art?” her friend then replied with a face of sheer terror “I don’t give a fuck!”
I’ve seen him a couple times and I hope to run into him again soon. My friend Jordan actually texted me one afternoon asking me if I was at Union Square, I replied with a simple “No, why?” — Jordan then responded with a video of Enormous Face and the message: “Never mind, I thought I saw you performing.” You may have seen him at a subway, or potentially on America’s Got Talent.
Every time I see Enormous Face (either in the flesh or behind the shiny glass that lives in my laptop) I get the sensation of my ears popping upon descent — however, my ears do not pop, they’re too distracted by what I am witnessing, not viewing…witnessing. This queer artist is about as transgressive as they come which is interesting considering I will typically default “transgressive” artists as unimaginative people who rely on cheap thrills, but there is something undeniably and sensationally enchanting about this Enormous Face character…plus, he seems to genuinely enjoy the cheap thrills.
You must visit his website, if you can call it that. I’ve always thought of his website as more of an assemblage of a treasure trove, a map, a maze without an end, a cabinet of curiosities. To put it simply, it’s a directional-less shit-show of extensive and unorganized psychotic matter that you can literally, I mean truly literally, get lost in. There is music, games, fake dream journals, collages, videos, drawings, writings, documentations and I’m sure there is more zany benevolence that I have yet to uncover.
I do in fact have a contact with Enormous Face and was thinking about potentially interviewing him but I opted out for this humble post instead. This guy lives under a cloud of mystery in my head, loosing that would be a real sadness.
This is a new and fascinating breed of camp — and if there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s that the world can never have enough camp.
I visited the opening of ‘Mike Kelley’ at MoMA PS1. The show is the largest survey of Kelley’s work to date, and it is the first time that all of PS1’s schoolhouse in Queens has been dedicated to a single artist. The school is a fitting setting for Kelley’s off-color critiques of American society and its systems of education and indoctrination. Kelley somehow escaped much of the brainwashing that has blunted the edge of many an MFA student, and so we are blessed with a delightfully ludic romp through American pop culture that bridges high and low through the use of stuffed animals, felt, kitsch, and other materials not usually deemed worthy of use in serious art. Highlights include “Pay for Your Pleasure,” a hall length exploration of the relationship between art and crime; and “From my Institution to Yours,” which includes a battering ram meant to be used by visitors to literally smash through the staff door separating visitors who consume, from workers who produce. A throbbing libidinal energy penetrates the exhibition, exposing our culture’s hypocritical repression of anything relating to the oozing, shitting, bleeding, fucking, non-sanitized human body. What may at first appear to be crass and childish works by Kelley cast an unsettling glance into the perverse and seedy innerworkings of American society.
A visit to the artist's retrospective at the New Museum
Chris Burden’s mind blowing retrospective ‘Extreme Measures’ has taken over the entire exterior and interior of the New Museum. This expansive show spanning the four decade career of this pioneering artist’s life offers “…an extraordinary opportunity to examine the ways in which Burden has continuously investigated the breaking points of materials institutions and even himself.” Start on the 5th floor where Burden’s early performance pieces are articulated in big red binders and in a video and audio installation and then work your way down.
Burden, using his body as a canvas, was crucified on the top of a VW bug, shot at with live ammo and pierced with pushpins, all in public performances that put him on the map in the 70’s. “The Big Wheel” a 6,000 pound cast iron fly wheel propelled by a motor cycle running at full throttle marks the artist’s pivotal shift to sculpture and opens the door to an array of massive sculptures and installations on display, all of which my words fail to describe. Be sure to see the heavily guarded “Tower of Power” a sculpture made of 100 solid gold 32 oz. bricks worth well over 4 million dollars in today’s market! The visceral magnitude of the works, one more intriguing than the last, left me inspired and exhausted.
Go check out a show by one of the most important artists to emerge in the last half century.
$16, Wed-Sun 11:00am-6:00pm, New Museum, 235 Bowery St. NY, NY.