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
The 24-year-old photographer on his incisive work and the future of photography
Capturing potent portraits of friends, body parts, objects, and himself (pictured above), 24-year-old Benjamin Ackermann’s photography lays bare an audacious, compelling depiction of youth. Bruises, blood, semen, and saliva are all prominent focal points, thrown in sharp relief against patchworks of skin that cover a refreshingly disparate range of body types. His work is often explicit and unrelenting, providing ludic access points to moments from the artist’s life that come together like a joyously vulgar, Instagram-ready descendant of Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Codependency. It’s no wonder he’s called his Tumblr, where he publishes his photography, a “visual autobiography” of his own life: as a group, his work forms a deeply personal collection of loaded imagery that act as embodiments of Ackermann’s own resolute notions on intimacy, queerness, and desire.
Born and raised in Southern California, Ackermann moved to New York City two and a half years ago with the help of friend and photographic muse Hannah Boyne. “When she heard I wanted to move to New York, she flew me out and stayed with me for a week until I got my footing,” Ackermann explains. “She changed my life forever.” The move has certainly paid off: the past few years of experimentation have revealed a keen eye for detail, color, and composition. Though he’s fresh to photography, his work already demonstrates a visceral, thought-provoking artist to watch.
We reached out to Ackermann to ask him a few questions about how he defines his visual autobiography, taking photos of money shots, and what he thinks the future of photography looks like.
What’s your earliest experience with a camera? When I was about 10 years old, my sister Heidi and I drove from my home in California to Buffalo, New York where she was attending college. She had a film camera that she let me use to photograph the trip. She was so cool to me and let me take photos of whatever I wanted. We went to the Grand Canyon, drove through endless cornfields, and stayed at weird hotels.
Why do queer people figure prominently in your work? Do you consider your work political? I don’t identify as anything sexually, except for my gender which is male. Sex is more complicated and personal than we are able to express in words which is why we do it with our bodies. There are people of all types in my photos, but I think people are drawn mostly to the photos of gay men because I have a unique perspective of them, one that is not yet widely shown within mainstream imagery such as advertising, TV shows, etc. My photos are not like a lot of early and contemporary gay photography because instead of fetishizing and focusing on them solely as physical specimens, I obsess over the emotional exchanges and social implications of intimacy between men. I’m not sure my mindset is political when I’m photographing, but I would say there are political elements in my decisions of which photos to publish or not to publish.
Since your work has only been public for two years, are you looking forward to a long career as a photographer? Are you a photographer full-time or do you have other professional interests? I am looking forward to a multi-faceted artistic life of discovery and growth. I’d like to work with brands, people, and concepts by capturing and nurturing their identities and abilities. When I see an interesting campaign or a moving portrait it often affects me more than editorial work. I currently work at a restaurant part time. Hopefully that will change soon, as I would much rather work creatively full time.
A lot of your work hones in on the body—bruises, blood, skin, semen, and saliva are all prominent subjects. You manage to get a lot across about intimacy, desire, and mortality through this kind of imagery. What is it about the body and its various functions and states that appeals to you aesthetically and/or thematically? Blood, skin, saliva, etc. are all elements of sex and natural products of our bodies. For me, it is important to photograph and honor them to maintain the integrity of my perspectives on intimacy, sex, and the emotions that accompany them. I love beauty. To me, the human body is the most beautiful thing to observe and interact with. I think it’s strange that bodies are the one thing everyone has and at the same time a major source of shame or embarrassment for most people. Think about how much humans love to cum. There are billion-dollar industries based on making us cum. We are all here because somebody had an orgasm. Yet people feel uncomfortable seeing a picture of semen unless it’s in a pornographic or textbook context. Why alienate and misrepresent something that actually holds great value and motivation for you? To me, that unwillingness to examine oneself and inability to have a dialogue about something so vital to our existence is more disturbing than a photo of someone’s busted nut. Ok, maybe my work is a little political.
In the past, you’ve called your work a “visual autobiography.” How do you see your work as an autobiography? Have you ever had any doubts about putting such intimate parts of your life out there, or is that kind of exposure freeing? My work is autobiographical in that it is a visual diary of some of the beautiful moments in my life. The photos of people having sex, bleeding, running around naked on rooftops—those are all actual moments that happened organically, not something I planned out extensively. I started my blog anonymously years ago and was posting photos, quotes, and sounds I liked and saved from the Internet and wherever. That’s how I started to develop my taste and aesthetic, which eventually evolved into creating content myself. At first I was apprehensive about sharing parts of my life that most people deem “too personal” because I didn’t want certain opportunities to be denied me. It came down to me loving who I am and what I do and accepting that any opportunity I didn’t get to experience because of who I am probably isn’t meant for me anyways. It is a freedom, but it comes with a lot of misunderstanding, judgment, and misrepresentation. If I stay true to my values both within and outside of the context of my work, I find that most people eventually come to an understanding of who I am and are able to find ways in which they can relate to me.
You’ve said before that honesty is an important principle you live by; how does this translate into the technical and creative sides of your photography? Creatively things have to be organic and based in reality. If I try to produce an emotion that isn’t happening naturally or make someone look different than they actually are, I lose interest and don’t find the joy in the work. I try and maintain that same ethos in the editing process, and keep postproduction minimal. If something isn’t there, I try not to force it. If something is there, I try not to overlook it.
Judging by your blog, moving to New York seems to have acted as a springboard for you. Does the creative energy of New York City inspire or influence your work? I came to New York to immerse myself in an environment more conducive to creative thinking and living. Since moving here, I have come into my own understanding of who I am. New York inspires me to live a life I love and to work hard. One day I’m at some beautiful rooftop bar watching the sun sink across the skyline and the next I’m hopping the subway turnstile and eating dollar slices of pizza because I spent all my money. New York always keeps me on my toes. I love this city.
Are there any contemporary artists that you admire or relate to? My friends, many of whom are wonderful artists, are my greatest source of daily inspiration and support. One of my closest friends Mani Motarjemi is an illustrator and drag persona named Manicure Versace. I value and relate to his work because it provides an interesting perspective on men; gay, straight, or otherwise. Mani is a gorgeous Persian man. As Manicure he’s a chic ‘90s supermodel with chest hair. Observing the ways in which men interact with him based on which one he is at the time is moving and relatable. Their interactions are very telling of the state of men in relation to each other (and gender in general) right now, specifically socially and mentally.
If you could photograph anyone, living or dead, who would it be? I would love to photograph my birth father when he was my age. I was adopted at birth so I’ve never met him. I only have one photo of him from his younger days, leaning against a pick up truck holding a basketball, shirtless.
Now that formats like Instagram are so popular, what do you see as the future of photography? I love Instagram. I believe the future is what you do with what’s been left to you. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you can’t have an unique perspective. Being creative isn’t something I choose or have to work on. It’s something that runs through me everyday and motivates me to continue to think and to grow and to make things. It doesn’t matter if everyone has a camera. They should! They will never be me and I will never be them, and that’s one reason why art and people are important. If I was trying to create moments that weren’t actually there, it would become much harder for me to achieve my aesthetic, which people have told me is one reason they are drawn to my photographs. I don’t view art or life as a competition. If I did, someone would have to lose and for me, I think all people deserve to coexist instead of dominating one another.
Who was Helena Rubinstein I hear a couple of you say? Well let me give you a low down on Madame (as she was universally known). Madame Rubinstein was a legendary cosmetics entrepreneur and one of the world’s richest people. “As the head of a cosmetics empire that extended across four continents, she was, arguably, the first modern self-made woman magnate. Rubinstein was ahead of her time in her embrace of cultural and artistic diversity. She was not only an early patron of European and Latin American modern art, but also one of the earliest, leading collectors of African and Oceanic sculpture.” Helena died in 1965 and left behind her a treasure trove of modern art and objects. This fantastic exhibition at the Jewish Museum “reunites selections from Rubinstein’s famed art collection, dispersed at auction in 1966, featuring works by Pablo Picasso, Elie Nadelman, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Joan Miró, and Henri Matisse, among others, as well as more than thirty works from her peerless collection of African and Oceanic art.” It’s a fascinating look at what a woman with good taste and unlimited funds can do. Sure she could have given all her money away to charity, but art matters, so if a cunty old lady with more money than sense wants to support it — good for her!
A compilation of 44 drawings by Leo Rydell Jost
This book of drawings called Colored Dudes by Leo Rydell Jost is a compilation of his first 44 artworks that he has been working on since June 2014. He was encouraged to self-publish this book by his boyfriend Luis Venegas who’s the creator of the amazing publications EY! Magateen and Candy. Luis also helped with the art direction of Colored Dudes.
Leo told me more about his process in creating these charming drawings and how the internet played a major part while he was developing his technique, “I’m addicted to Tumblr, there is something in its randomness that won’t let me stop scrolling. So one day I thought that I should do something with all the reblogs I did…” When he started drawing this body of work he was influenced by the artists Cocteau, Warhol, Baldessari.
His drawings, which are a combination of paper cut outs, tracing paper and other stuff from the garbage that he glues together, are effortless and arranged in a very casual way, he explained to me, “I don’t usually have much control over what I’m working on…it’s not so much about symbolism nor meaning of what you are trying to put behind things, it’s almost completely aesthetic…I’m always working with the computer, so I emulated the way I worked with Photoshop: layers, opacity, cut/ paste…”
The book Colored Dudes is 70 pages, full color and is in a limited run of 100 copies (each book is signed and numbered). It’s sold out online, Yes! it’s that good. But you can still get it from one of these stores.
Last night I had the pleasure to visit the launch of Bedell Cellars’ First Crush Red 2013, a light and juicy blend of merlot and cabernet franc whose label bears the image of a woman’s face created by one of our favorite artists, Mickalene Thomas. The bright collage was created in preparation for a painting in Thomas’ Tête de Femme series, and perfectly represents the spirit of the radiant blend that lies inside. Her image joins a prestigious roster of artworks that grace the front of bottles from Bedell.
Bedell, owned by the art collector Michael Lynne, has already engaged in a number of artist collaborations. Previous labels have been created by Barbara Kruger, Chuck Close, Ross Bleckner, Eric Fischl, April Gornik and Howard Schatz. The First Crush Red 2013 is created from sustainably farmed young vines on the North Fork of Long Island, and is as enjoyable to drink as it is to look at. I’m already brainstorming what to do with my bottle after I drink it! I’m tempted to keep it unopened as an art piece, but with that excellent juice inside, I doubt I’ll be able to resist. Perhaps we’ll drink it on GAYLETTER thanksgiving — its bright fruit will pair easily with a range of foods, and everyone can appreciate Mickalene Thomas’ phenomenal work in the center of the table.
The legendary photographer needs funding to purchase a digital camera and materials...
Whether or not you’re familiar with the work of James Bidgood, the dreamy landscape he creates in his art is a place anyone would be happy visiting.
Though these surreal photographs and illustrations seem celestial and otherworldly, the majority of them were staged and produced in Bidgood’s tiny Manhattan apartment. Among shelves and stacks of glue, paint, tissue paper and tulle is a small studio space in which Bidgood spends countless hours rendering these fairytales. His work is truly astounding and comes to life with unmatchable color and energy.
But his glitter supply is running low, and time and technology have moved quickly ahead of Mr. Bidgood. He needs your help to carry himself and his art towards the future.
An evolving exhibition project generated by Michael Stipe — NYU Steinhardt Department of Art & Art Professions Fall 2014 Artist in Residence.
Touted as the most ambitious exhibition ever presented by the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art — Classical Nudes and The Making of Queer History attempts to “trace the same sex gaze as grounded in classical form from Antiquity to the modern day.” Now that’s a lot of ground to cover. To make things more digestible, the curator Jonathan David Katz has divided the show into four distinct periods following a chronological order from Antiquity to the Renaissance on to the 18th and 19th Centuries and finally exploring Modern times. There are nearly 100 objects of sculpture, painting, drawing photography and video by artists that include James Bidgood, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Paul Cadmus, F. Holland Day, Jim French, Jean Jacques Pradier, William von Gloeden, Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe and Lyle Ashton Harris, just to name a few. I must say the homoerotic energy is pervasive — at times blatant and other times more subtle, it almost made me want to shout “We’re Here, We’re Queer and We’re NOT going shopping!” (an old Act Up slogan from a march on 5th Avenue protesting the Catholic church). Seriously this monumental show just made me prideful, go have a look, it’s up until Jan 4th.