April 6 - 27, 2019

Los Angeles, CA

TOM of Finland Foundation
Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986 – 2019

  RICK CASTRO: French Kiss-Ass, 1994, 20x16
Artist: RICK CASTRO, French Kiss-Ass, 1994, 20"×16″

Curated by Rubén Esparza

Reception, Saturday, 6-9p
Doorman – Peter Finland | Bartender – Ron Athey | Poetry Recital – Matt Steele

Tea Salon and Walk-through
Wednesday, 24th April, 5-7p

With Rick Castro and Rubén Esparza

Tea Salon and Walk-through

Please RSVP: Rubén@RubénEsparza.com

On view through 27th April by appointment.

Checklist of Art

  RICK CASTRO: Caught Smoking, 1992, 20×16
Artist: RICK CASTRO, Caught Smoking, 1992, 20"×16"

“I consider myself a fetish artist.
Be it thru photography, film, writing and blogging; this is who I am.
I understand the term fetish to be broad, more so than most people are aware, or would like to admit.
Fetishistic desire reaches all aspects of life.

“fet·ish ˈfet̬·ɪʃ
-A form of sexual (not exclusively) desire in which gratification is linked to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, person, practice, etc.
-Fixation—obsession—compulsion—mania—a driving force.
-An object thought to have magical powers; something that is empowered by something else.

“The sexual revolution began in the late ’60s through the ’70s, perhaps ending in the ’80s with HIV/AIDS.
The ’90s marked the beginning of the fetish revolution, my most prolific period.
Early twenty-first century is all about fetish.
This is my time. I was once labeled “the fetish king” by the press. I accept the title.

“This exhibition is a comprehensive journey of my photography, 1986 through 2019. Besides the themes of BDSM, lust and desire, I am presenting an in-your-face pushback to American censorship. If we accept these restrictions as a community, we’re doomed.”

— Rick Castro, 2019

Born in Los Angeles in 1958, Rick Castro began his early career working as a fashion stylist and clothing designer. His clients over the years have included Bette Midler, David Bowie, Herb Ritts, Joel-Peter Witkin and magazines like Interview, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. Castro first became a freelance photographer in 1988, with his work appearing in international and local publications.

His first solo was at A Different Light Bookstore in Silver Lake, California, in 1988. Over the decades he has had numerous international exhibitions. Notable films includes his short films of hustler interviews in 1994 that inspired Bruce LaBruce to make the film Hustler White in 1996, in which he was co-director/writer. The film garnered great success internationally and is listed by the Los Angeles Times as one of the top 100 underground films of the 20th century. Castro also directed a documentary for MTV called Plushies & Furries in 2001, a film which focused on the furry communities.

Over his 30 plus career, Castro has photographed producer Alan Poul, porn star Peter Berlin, author Gore Vidal, director Kenneth Anger, performance artist Ron Athey and the 14th Dalai Lama. Castro has created editorial photos for Christian Dior Homme, Cartier jewelry, other international fashion houses. His films are archived by UCLA Legacy Projects and his books and photographs are archived by the Alfred Kinsey Institute and Tom of Finland Foundation. He continues his art practice and on commissioned photo shoots. Castro works closely with his friend and fashion icon Rick Owens, realizing photographs that are notably more art than fashion.

Durk Dehner, cofounder of Tom of Finland Foundation, was one of Rick Castro’s first collectors, and his first publisher. TOM House is where Castro hosts a tea salon every Wednesday and a monthly book club.

RICK CASTRO: Amputee Hustler, still from 'Hustler White', 1996
Artist: RICK CASTRO, Amputee Hustler, still from 'Hustler White', 1996, 20"×16"

"The artist’s sex positive imagery is darkly erotic, elegant, and at times, sinister. A powerful and imaginative figure that emerged in the Los Angeles underground during the late ’80s, Rick Castro has been dubbed “the fetish king” by all that know him. His photographs are characterized by potent and visceral tableaux, tinged with sadomasochism, leather and sexual pleasure. From the artist’s fetishizing of Tony Ward in the ’80s, to capturing moments, places and the people of the underground scene in Los Angeles nightlife in the ’90s and ’00s, he continues his pictorial career and fascination with lust, desire and kink producing elegant portraiture of celebrated artists and the demi-monde."

-By Marcel Schlutt

Fetish King Rick Castro Fights Censorship

Rick Castro stands against internet censorship

When Rick Castro shared our article about his upcoming exhibition opening this Saturday at Tom of Finland Foundation, Facebook barred him from his account for 30 days. There was nothing in the promotional image of sexual content or nudity.

For better or, (mostly) worse, the largest social media platforms have become the dictators of culture for the early 21st century. They do this by deciding who and what can be posted. Ironic since WWW (worldwide web) was created as a way for everyone to express whatever they want to without corporate input.

These social media platforms have become the harshest censors using Trumpworld’s Russian hackers as excuse to remove content. Homeland security may be the impetus, but this quickly overreached to include sexual content.

Social media uses faux community standards and religion as justification for discriminatory practices that are blatantly hypocritical. Not surprisingly LGBTQ postings have become the hardest hit with rampant over-censorship and arbitrary removals.

This is unfortunately nothing new. “Blame the gays” rhetoric has been part of the American justice scapegoating for as long as we care to remember.

I  have always been, and always will be, a sex positive artist.

My exhibit at Tom of Finland Foundation, Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986 – 2019, is a comprehensive journey of my photography. Besides the themes of BDSM, lust, and desire, I am presenting an in-your-face pushback to American censorship. If we accept these restrictions as a community, we’re doomed.

Fuck censorship.

— Rick Castro, April 2, 2019

The Story of Rick Castro, the Photographer and “King of Fetish”

RICK CASTRO Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986 – 2019 | Opens 6th April

We speak with the fetish photographer, whose work is being celebrated at a new exhibition at the Tom of Finland Foundation, opening this weekend.

For Rick Castro, fetish is the ultimate manifestation of self; the very notion of perfection, if you will. The journey began one day in 1970, when the photographer – who has shot and interviewed Ron AtheyAlice Bag and Tony Ward for AnotherManmag.com – discovered a copy of A Clockwork Orange in his aunt’s secondhand bookstore when he was 12.

“It shocked me and made my young wheels turn,” Castro says from his Los Angeles home. “I was trying to put it all into context. The idea of glamourised violence and scary dystopia – it seemed to ring true. I started to see that is going to be the future – and it was. We’ve surpassed it.”

And in doing so, we have embraced fetish in a broader sense. Castro explains, “For me it’s all-encompassing. The 21st century is all about fetish. On the positive side, it is the appreciation on a larger scale of things that would not have gotten a lot of respect in the past, but on the negative side it’s that cult of personality that I think is a waste of time and lead to the banality of America if not the world.”

— Miss Rosen
Another Man

Rick Castro | Fetish King

RICK CASTRO: Black Stag, 2015
Artist: RICK CASTRO, Black Stag, 2015, 20"×16"
RICK CASTRO: White Stag, 2015
Artist: RICK CASTRO, White Stag, 2015, 20"×16"

Rick Castro is an invaluable figure in the history and tradition of LA’s bewitching underground. At every encounter I have had I felt like a child asking their parent for a bedtime story, only mine were questions of how fucked up everyone was, what they were wearing, and what seedy places they inhabited that are no longer there. His prolific work of the ’80s and ’90s is still a template for the sexual expression we so widely aestheticize in today’s hyper tech culture, though what is remarkable is the lack of pretense and self-awareness that has built the digital ages parameters for how far we can actually push the envelope. His fixation on the physique and body of leather was a natural extension of the spirit of Tom of Finland.

Reviewing Castro’s early work, his vision spoke of a specific era, a time when clothing were grungy and minimal(ist) along with stories of grit and glamour that only came with living in ’90’s Hollywood. All this seems so reserve in the way we approach the digital sexual revolution of PrEP and sex positivity YouTube land, a triumph that seems radical as displayed in an era of high AIDS related deaths and the closet scene of gay men. It is with this signature style that it has come time for the photographer to present a retrospective at the Tom of Finland Foundation, curated by Rubén Esparza, which showcases his work at its most pure, sexual, sleek and unapologetic. I jumped at the chance to speak to the photographer to learn about what would birth his creative exploration into fashion, LA, and the euphoria of fetishism.

— BJ Panda Bear


No dethronement, the living "king of fetish" is still Rick Castro! "Pineapple" is happy to share his upcoming exhibition’s preview. Presented by Tom of Finland Foundation.


A Gallery of Pix from the Opening Night Reception

RICK CASTRO Reception Photo Gallery

Click to see the pix.

Getting to TOM House

Our bus stop is Sunset/Echo Park. We are serviced by Metro lines 4/704 and 2/302. Also the 603 to Alvarado/Sunset.

Continue on Sunset Boulevard to Laveta Terrace, then up the short hill and up the Grand Stairs until Laveta Terrace levels out and another 1/2 block. TOM House is on your left. The House is only a 0.3 mile walk from the bus stop.

Photograph by Alex La Cruz for GAYLETTER
Photograph by Alex La Cruz for GAYLETTER

1421 Laveta Terrace is on a residential street so you may also want to consider using Uber or Lyft.

TOM House
(Foundation Headquarters)
1421 Laveta Terrace, Los Angeles, CA 90026
(Echo Park) Map

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