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.
An interview with collector Robert Swope
Can you imagine going to the flea market, opening a random box and discovering hundreds of photographs of men dressed as ladies from the late fifties to the mid sixties? Where, you’d wonder on earth did they come from. The answer, as it turned out, is a retreat in Hunter, New York called Casa Susanna for heterosexual transvestites. “Founded by Susanna, aka Tito Valenti, the resort embraced men who dressed like women providing a safe haven for the exploration of gender roles in a time when it was not common to do so.”
The archive consisting of 189 color photographs, 144 black and white photographs and 7 photographic Christmas cards now on view at Wright (980 Madison Ave. NY, NY.) is being auctioned off this Oct. 30 with an estimated value of $100,000-$150,000. The archive is owned by the collectors Robert Swope and Michel Hurst who originally unearthed the collection in the flea market. Please take this rare opportunity to pop uptown to see these miraculous photographs. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Robert on the eve of the auction to ask him some pointed questions about the archive.
If you don’t see the answer to one of the questions this body of work provokes for you please come to a talk the two collectors are having at Wright Oct. 28th from 6:00-8:00PM and ask away — I’m sure it will be a lively conversation — I’ll be there with bells on.
Did the dealer at the flea market where you purchased the archive have any idea of the value of the photographs? Did they mention where they procured the images from? No. They came from a self-storage unit.
What was your reaction when you discovered the first few photographs? Could you make sense of them? I knew immediately that they were something special and figured it out fairly quickly — I think when you see them altogether they speak for themselves and tell a story.
Briefly describe how you followed the trail back to Casa Susanna? We were contacted once the book came out by a P.H.D. candidate who was doing research in this field and clued us into the resort Casa Susanna.
What has become of the property? I believe the property is currently for sale and they are using the Casa Susanna connection as a selling point.
Do you believe that all these men were heterosexual? I think that some were probably gay.
Why are you selling the collection now? My partner and I are selling our design collection at the same time and decided to sell the Casa Archive as well — we have taken it as far as we can.
Who do you think would be the ideal buyer for the archive? An institution would be a great place for the collection — somewhere that it could be made available to be seen.
How would you say the Casa Susanna drag is different from today’s drag? This is the thing — these guys were NOT drag queens — they were not doing a parody of women — as drag queens do — they were trying to be real women.
Were wives welcome at Casa Susanna? Did the men bring them along? Wives were welcome andmany participants did bring their wives.
How did all these images taken by various different photographers wind up in the same collection? I believe the collection was most likely the property of Susanna Valenti herself, particularly since one of the albums had her business card attached to the cover.
Will you miss the archive once it’s gone? Yes, I am quite attached to it.
This show of photographs at the Sonnabend gallery by artists Max Becher and Andrea Robbins is definitely on the intellectual tip. The two artists are interested in places out of sync with their causes and consequences. Sounds lofty but makes perfect sense when you see the exhibition. On view are stunning large scale photographs of ten commandment monuments on public land scattered across the US. Their presence has caused legal disputes even though anti-religious groups want them removed. In another room of the gallery there are photographs of replicas of the home of the Lubavitch Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. Duplicates of the original building at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn are found in cities all over the world and used as Hasidic centers. Lastly, in the third room, there is a series of photographs of none other than the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel. The images are eerily similar as all 600 locations adhere to the same interior design code littered with American southern memorabilia and taxidermy. The three subjects of this show could not be more disparate but add up to one cohesive powerful statement about the distinctly American psyche.
We also chat with the photographer about his latest book FRACTURED
Photographer Jeremy Kost has a brand new photography book tittled FRACTURED, it consists of “multiple-exposure Polaroids of young, stereotypically beautiful men…” with plenty of peen on display! The images contained in the book are mysterious and have a beautiful dreamy quality to them. Jeremy created this layered effect by using dated film and the “process of double exposing in daylight.” We reached out to the artist to asked him a few questions and learn more about his new project. He also sent us a group of “exclusive” images that are not contained in the book. If you are in NYC, he’s having a book signing at Bookmarc on October 21 from 6:00Pm-8:00PM.
When did you start creating this body of work? The work started about 2.5 years ago by chance really. A Polaroid was jammed in my camera and I shot the frame again to try to get it to eject. The result was beautiful and I’ve been working to explore and perfect the process since!
How do the images differ from the ones you’ve created before? Well, in essence I think of these as sort of collapsed collages. Abstractions, landscapes, figures, all slammed together into a single dream like frame. All of the previous work that people know have been single, straightforward Polaroids. Singular in vision and form. The collages, while abstracted, are still more literal than the new work.
What polaroid camera and film did you use to create these images? Spectra cameras and dead stock Polaroid film mostly. It all expired in 2009 and was made in 2008. Each frame is super precious because it’s literally running out with every click.
Did you create this work with the idea of making a book in mind? Not really. I was making the work and through the creative process, Sam Shahid (who really is a genius even given all our head butting over the years) challenged me to do it. When we turned the book into Damiani, even they were surprised… In a good way!
Why is the book called Fractured? The title really goes back to the images being “fractured.” Almost like you’re waking up from a dream and you can kinda sorta put them back together but you can’t quite. It’s also looking at this fracturing of identity and body and specifically facade and the physical plane.
Can you tell me more about the process of creating that layered ghost-like effect in your pictures. There have to be some secrets left in the world, no? It’s a much more laborious process than people might suspect, especially with the neon images. They happen in multiple moments which take a lot of patience and “sticking to it” so to speak.
How many boys did you photograph for this project? I made around 3,800 Polaroids of something like 55 guys as I was making this book. Not all are in the book for a variety of reasons. The nice thing about art is that it’s timeless and can always come back in the future!
How many of the boys got naked? Well, almost all. I’m not big on talking about shooting individuals (kinda like not kissing and telling) but generally, if someone isn’t comfortable with some form of nudity (frontally exposed or not) I pass on shooting them. My casting process has gotten super tight.
What’s the point you are trying to make with this body of work? I’m not sure there is a point so to speak. They represent a vision that’s been developing for the last couple of years and continues to take new forms with more flowers and more text. I’m sort of a fan of the idea of making art that you want to see for yourself and that you hope people like vs having some super direct point.
This career encompassing show has been a massive hit at the Whitney Museum, and it’s about to close. Which means if you haven’t seen it yet, this weekend is your last chance. Best of all you can go at any hour (the museum is open continuously for 36 hours). Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to be impressed by Jeff Koons, especially after seeing the incredibly precise and breathtakingly constructed objects on display at this 5 floor retrospective. From his balloon dogs to his kitschy, over-sized tchotchke inspired pieces, to the porn series starring his ex-wife (and the kidnapper of their son) Cicciolina, it’s a dramatic collection of work and well worth a visit, especially since it’s one of the last shows at The Whitneys current location before the museum moves downtown, next to the High Line. I know people like to say that Jeff Koons is “divisive” and I get it, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always been a fan. His work is so fantastical, it’s so wild...it’s something — there’s only one Jeff Koons, thankfully.
The exhibition is now on view at the Bureau of General Services — Queer Division
Gio Black Peter is inviting us all to come with him to hell and this time he seems very serious about it — with an exhibition titled See You in Hell that opens this Saturday at 7:00PM at the Bureau of General Services — Queer Division. The exhibition will showcase some of Gio’s paintings and drawings including his series of paintings on NYC subway maps. Gio told me over a very intimate Facebook chat how it all came about: “It all started with the idea that the life of art depends on the viewer’s willingness to suspend his or her rational thoughts and play into the believability of lies and realistic falsehoods." Expect a live performance by Gio (of course his peen will be on display) The Morning Star, Max Steele, Brian Kenny, Jordan Hall, Tyler Stone, Lady Simon, Gordon Beeferman and more. We heard that Gio will be at the Bureau every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday working on new art for the duration of the show, feel free to go there and say hi — he’ll love it, we promise!
Last Tuesday I visited NEW SIGHTS, NEW NOISE, a fascinating project generated by Michael Stipe in collaboration with NYU students, faculty, and guest artists. 80WSE‘s gallery has been transformed into a constantly changing laboratory where Stipe keeps a studio in part of the galleries for the duration of his residency, and the rest of the space teems with images projected on the walls and floor. Based on the concept of aggregation, the images when I visited had been curated by Stipe and spanned a fantastic range from historical to abstract. Corbis stock photos of President Nixon and his alleged gay lover reverberated against idyllic seaside photos and grid based models of human bodies. You can peek into Stipe’s studio through gaps in the wood walls that separate it from the rest of the space, and will be treated to a view into the backstage of artistic production. An issue of the New York Times encased in plexiglass mingles with a carton of water, a pair of German army trainers, and a bronze cassette replica.
You can visit the gallery Tuesday – Saturday from 10:30AM – 6:00PM, but you may want to schedule your visit to coincide with a special happening that will occur this weekend. On Saturday, October 11th, the projections will be curated by NYU undergraduate David Muñoz with help by fellow classmates Christina Blue, Jongyoon Choi, Ira Dae Young Kim, Daniel Mock and Serina Wei; and from 4:00PM – 6:00PM will be accompanied by music from Taul Paul and Cazwell. I’ve been assured that the afternoon happening is not be missed, and that a special surprise is in store!
OK, so I have three words for you: Stevie Nicks, selfies. OMG! The witchiest of all the witches, the queen of coke, the lover of lace, the one-and-only Stevie Nicks was taking selfies waaaaaaaaaaaay before they were even called that, and now they’re on display for the whole world to see (and I presume, purchase?). I’ll let Stevie fill you in on the details of the art work: “All portraits were taken in the wee hours of the night, both at home and on tour, using Polaroid cameras. I wanted to learn how to become a photographer. I was the stylist, the makeup artist, the furniture mover, the lighting director — it was my joy. I was the model.” Yes you were cunt, who needs all that shit when you’re Stevie Nicks? Bitch’s drivers license photo probably looks better than any photo Annie Leibovitz has ever shot! I can’t wait to see them all in person!