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 withAlejandro Jodorowsky’s “Holy Mountain.” Hint: it has a little something to do with naked bearded hippie boys…
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.
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.
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 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.