Graeme Flegenheimer, curator behind TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland [on view through 27th May] resolved this conundrum by levering the artist’s rich creative and personal relationships to present a novel study of Tom, artist and man. Realized in collaboration with Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead at MOCAD, the exhibition explores the value and influence of Tom’s network of collaborators, admirers and supporters. These individuals are often left unacknowledged, but Flegenheimer reminds us that artists do not exist in a vacuum, and are instead the product of a complex web of influences and support systems. For Tom, this included artists like Richard Hawkins, Robert Mapplethorpe, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and John Waters, all of which are represented in the exhibition. The presentation also includes photographs, reference material, and ephemera, within a space that is designed to evoke the spirit of TOM House in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
Bust out the poppers: Tom of Finland’s leather boys are hitting Detroit. Goons whining about perversion and pornography in the presence of his illustrations don’t know sublime weirdness when it strips for them. Classical sculptures on steroids emitting an angelic glow, Finland’s bodies have the same sci-fi sexiness as H. R. Giger’s aliens, complete with nuclear-missile dicks and flesh that looks like latex. MOCAD shows them off inside Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, amid juicy photographs, ephemera, and works from Finland devotees such as John Waters, Richard Hawkins, and Raymond Pettibon, creating an art-historical biker gang at once homoerotic and magical. They all transform so-called trash into beauty. Free your mind and your ass will follow.
Special Hours: 11a-8p
The MOCAD Café and Store Will Be Open from 9:30a-8p