Tom was born Touko Laaksonen in Kaarina, southwest Finland in 1920.
He signed his erotic work “Tom” and when his drawings were first published in 1957, the now world-famous “Tom of Finland” was born.
The name Touko Laaksonen was kept for family and colleagues; both friends and fans have always simply called him Tom.
Touko’s Name Day is 24th May
Finland is one of the countries in Europe which celebrates Name Days (called Nimipäivä in Finnish). The tradition of celebrating Name Days dedicates a name or names to every calendar day of the year. A person then celebrates a Name Day on the day in the calendar where his or her given name appears.
In Finland, Name Days can be celebrated in the same way as a Birthday, where the individual having the Name Day will receive greeting cards, flowers or gifts from friends and family. Everyone appreciates good wishes on their day.
TOM OF FINLAND, Untitled (From “Camping”), 1976, Graphite on paper, 11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm), framed: 17 1/4 x 13 5/8 x 1 1/2 inches (43.8 x 34.6 x 3.8 cm)
David Kordansky Gallery shows a solo presentation of historic work by Tom of Finland in For Your Infotainment: Hudson and Feature Inc., a special section of Frieze New York 2018. Curated by Matthew Higgs, the section celebrates the legacy of the influential, maverick dealer Hudson (1950-2014) and the artists he showed at his gallery Feature Inc. in Chicago and New York. For Your Infotainment highlights Hudson’s uncompromising vision and commitment to personal aesthetic principles.
Hudson presented solo shows of Tom of Finland’s work in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was an early advocate for the exhibition of his drawings in a contemporary art context. This presentation will include works made in a variety of media, among them rare pen and ink pictures, highly detailed pencil renderings, and preparatory drawings that reflect both the artist’s virtuosic hand and the development of his thinking and passions.
Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) was one of the most influential creators of homoerotic imagery in the 20th century. His work can be approached along several interpretive lines, each of which points to the revolutionary nature of his project. He gave form to an imaginative universe that in turn helped fuel real-world liberation movements and enabled gay men to access their strength in new ways. And for people of all genders and orientations, his vision of pleasure reaffirms the centrality of sexuality and the body throughout human endeavor. Tom’s drawings therefore function, on the one hand, as joyful images of what true freedom looks like.
The physicality in the scenes Tom depicts finds a parallel in the beauty and sophistication of the drawings themselves. In this respect, his work can be seen as a major contribution to the development of figurative art and the representation of the male body. This presentation will enable viewers to see how his techniques evolved over time and according to the contexts for which they were being made. It includes works produced over a 45-year span (1944 to 1989); some are delicately shaded tableaux that would eventually appear in reproduction in underground publications, while others are faster, looser drawings that feel more private and less formal. In all cases, the works reveal Tom to be a master draftsman whose passion for both his medium and his subject matter enabled his project to become a powerful cultural force.
The exhibition features work by Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) and incorporates artists who supported and admired his work over the years, including Richard Hawkins, Robert Mapplethorpe, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and John Waters. The presentation will also include photographs, reference materials, and ephemera.
Tom of Finland’s drawings – remarkable not only for their masterful rendering, but also their fantastical representation of the male form – have been long celebrated for their radical role in broadening the popular understanding of Queer experience in art. Placed in context with his peers, the assemblage of these artworks engages a sensational narrative, one that helped define a generation.
Tom spent the last decade of his life between Finland and TOM House in Echo Park, Los Angeles, California. In partnering with Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, the exhibition will evoke the spirit of the home where Tom had his studio and lived during his final years. In their own way, both Tom and Mike spent their careers challenging the boundaries of art and social engagement, be it through their craft or thematic pursuits. The coupling of the two Foundations seeks to highlight the work of Queer artists across the globe and carry out the mission of protecting, preserving and promoting Queer art.
The exhibition will remain on view through 27th May 2018. Wed/Sat/Sun: 11a–5p
9p – TICKETS
FILM: Tom of Finland – 22nd April MOCAD’s Café 78 4p
Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to screen the life and work of the artist, one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century Gay culture. The film will be followed by a Q&A with exhibition curators S. R. Sharp, Marc Ransdell-Bellenger and Graeme Flegenheimer.
Tom of Finland Day – 8th May Special Hours: 11a – 8p
Cake and Souvenirs: 5p
Talk with Tom Cho: 6:30p
Tom is the author ofLook Who’s Morphing
and is a former resident of TOM House, Los Angeles.
The MOCAD Café and Store Will Be Open from 9:30a – 8p
Naughty Drawing – 19th May MOCAD’s Café 78 2-4p
Hardcore life drawing session features leather-clad male models and an inspiring array of specialty cocktails. Hosted by Tylonn J. Sawyer.
This exhibition and programs deal with mature themes. Adults visiting with youth must preview before entering exhibition or program.
Presenting sponsorship for TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland is provided by Equality Michigan. Generous support is provided by Anonymous, Christopher Burcham, Gretchen + Ethan Davidson, Doc Duhan, Nicole + Stephen Eisenberg, Sid Galton, Stephen Krawchuk, Jeff + Loren Gillis Newsom, Rob Hennig, CV Henriette, Colt Mix, Brien O’Brien, Daniel Parente, Stefano Pilati, Red Bull, Michael Reynolds, Rizzoli International Publications, Mayer Rus, the Shipley-Miller Foundation, Takoi, and Jon Wright. Generous in-kind support provided by Pabst Blue Ribbon, and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.