Tom House: Michael Reynolds explores Tom of Finland’s living museum

Rounding out Reynolds’ creative dream team is journalist and critic Mayer Rus, who contributed the book’s fascinating foreword. Photography: Martyn Thompson

Rounding out Reynolds’ creative dream team is journalist and critic Mayer Rus, who contributed the book’s fascinating foreword. Photography: Martyn Thompson

At first glance, the four-floor Craftsman-style house at 1421 Laveta Terrace looks like the kind of perfect fixer-upper that would be snapped up by the kinds of cashed-up creative types flocking to Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighbourhood. But this wholesome looking 106-year-old house, situated behind a manicured evergreen hedge, is a shrine to desire of a distinctly non-real estate kind.

Tom House, as its become known, was the erstwhile home and workplace of renegade Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, perhaps the most influential homoerotic artist of the 20th century (as featured in W*188). Now home to the Tom of Finland Foundation and the team who faithfully administer it, the property has been immortalised for the first time in Tom House, a deluxe new volume from Rizzoli, published 8th March.

Tom died in his native Finland in 1991, but his work and legacy have continued to flourish due to the indefatigable efforts of the foundation and its founder Durk Dehner, an Auntie Mame in leather who owns and oversees this sprawling paean to the libidinal. (With more than 3,500 artworks and 100,000 documents, images and items of memorabilia, it’s the world’s largest repository of erotic art). Dehner first encountered Tom’s drawings in the late 1970s, a moment which changed the course of his life and led to the establishment of the home and foundation. ‘The mission of the foundation is really to carry on Tom’s legacy, which is all about having a healthier, more natural way of looking at sexuality. We think sexuality doesn’t stop when you leave the bedroom,’ says Dehner.

The book itself – the vision of creative director and Wallpaper* US editor Michael Reynolds – reflects the property’s idiosyncratic, wildly collaborative spirit. ‘The moment I discovered the house some 20 years ago, I was entranced,’ says Reynolds. ‘I have always been captivated by provocation and things that lurk in the shadows of mainstream culture. Tom House is like a living, breathing commune – the very opposite of a dead artist’s museum. It was just a matter of waiting for the zeitgeist to be ready for this project.’

Lavish interior photographs by Martyn Thompson provide an intimate glimpse into the rambling 17-room house and its surrounds. There’s the crepuscular dungeon, with its myriad leather toys; Tom’s Room, an attic eyrie where the artist would sequester himself, chain-smoking cigarettes whilst working on collaged reference pages, sketches and preparatory drawings (many of which appear in print for the first time in Tom House); and the terraced, cheekily named Pleasure Park, which promises house guests the opportunity for alfresco assignations.

Rounding out Reynolds’ creative dream team is journalist and critic Mayer Rus, who contributed the book’s fascinating foreword. Rus places Tom of Finland and its home within a wider fine art context and captures the property’s sui generis nature. ‘Tom House has always been a welcoming gathering place; it’s a safeplace, a sensibility and an almost spiritual experience given the amount of artwork that is guarded here,’ says Dehner. Ultimately, it’s a destination best experienced on the page or in person: part frathouse, part bunker of Bohemia, part noncomformist bulwark. At Tom House, pleasure is always a moral imperative and life itself is a form of activism.

Tom House is published by Rizzoli, $55. For more information, visit the website; Instagram: @tominlosangeles

A book signing for Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles will take place on 12 March, 4-6pm at David Kordansky Gallery,  5130 W. Edgewood Place, Los Angeles, 90019

 

By Aaron Peasley1375798597-Wallpaper_v4_logo

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Totally floored: Austere’s showcase of Henzel Studio’s artistic rugs

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LA showroom Austere’s exhibition of handmade rugs from the Swedish textile company Henzel Studio brings an elevated artistic eye to an item that’s usually underfoot. The show would not be complete without Tom of Finland’s unforgettable pieces.

At the Austere showroom in downtown Los Angeles, an exhibition of handmade rugs from the Swedish textile company Henzel Studio brings an elevated artistic eye to an item that’s usually underfoot. On view until 14 September, silk-and-wool pieces conceived by such art world luminaries as Juergen Teller and Nan Goldin are shown in the United States for the first time, alongside collaborative rugs and pillows from such creative forces as Assume Vivid Astro Focus and Bernhard Willhelm.

All part of an open-ended series that started with a piece by a master of traversing mediums, Richard Prince – and which also includes a capsule collection with the Tom of Finland Foundation– the tactile explorations highlight the directional possibilities in ancient fibre techniques. Working closely with a network of skilled artisans in Nepal, the rugs can take months to complete from the initial yarn spinning. Some recall 17th century tapestries in their detail. Others expand the notion of collage with variations in texture and lustre through surprising uses of pile heights and appliqué; these include a freeform black rug by Helmut Lang based on a small sculpture, and a Marilyn Minter rug from an image of shattered glass, both of which reveal themselves according to vantage point and lighting. At Austere, which brings an inquisitive, unorthodox approach to Scandinavia’s design heritage, the rugs are hung and laid throughout the two-floor space in a density recalling a bazaar, while also offering radical propositions in decorative textiles.

Working in an unexpected medium allows for new creative directions, explains Joakim Andreasson, curator of Henzel Studio’s collaborations. ‘I think the current systems that are at place within the higher echelon of art and design are not necessarily conducive to openness and creative exploration,’ he says, noting that Henzel founder Calle Henzel has long pushed the boundaries of material mastery in his own work.

‘This project is more subjective than what can be summed up in a manifesto,’ Andreasson concludes. ‘If anything, the mission was to create a sense of freedom, where the artists were free to disregard design movements and related principles and rules, and where practicality was secondary to concept.’

By Su Wu1375798597-Wallpaper_v4_logo

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Macho man: Tom of Finland is latest to join Henzel Studio Heritage

Henzel Studio's latest collection - a tribute to artist Tom of Finland - launches at Colette this week

Henzel Studio’s latest collection – a tribute to artist Tom of Finland – launches at Colette this week

Henzel Studio launches a new chapter of their production with a tribute to artist Tom of Finland.

The collection, which is launching at Colette this week, opens a new frontier for the Swedish rug maker. Following last year’s impressive range of high profile artist collaborations, which included rugs by Richard Prince, Linder and Mickalene Thomas, the brand is now debuting an ongoing series of partnerships with artists’ foundations to bring a wide variety of 20th century works to life under the Henzel Studio Heritage umbrella.

Combining the best craftsmanship and latest weaving techniques, the rugs will showcase a selection of the artist’s vast production of homoerotic line drawings in great detail.

The collection includes one free-form hand knotted rug and twelve tufted rugs, made of New Zealand wool and silk and intricately woven to reproduce the drawings in great details. A set of three pillows completes the range.

The collection is inspired by the unique environment that is Tom’s own home, TOM House in Echo Park, Los Angeles (W* 188). Now home of Tom of Finland Foundation, the house offers a vivid picture of the artist’s world: rooms have been left intact and include a vast array of sketches, collected images and objects that center around a theme of homoerotic sexuality and the male body.

One of the artist’s most iconic pieces, a 1978 portrait of a policeman, is the subject of the hand knotted rug (woven over a 5-month period) which includes subtle manufacturing touches such as the silk embroidery that enhances the black leather effect on the hat. The rest of the collection depicts various sexual and sensual scenes from Tom of Finland’s sketches, many of which have never been seen before. Curator Joakim Andreasson worked on the three pillows, creating unique collages from Tom of Finland’s collected imagery he found in the house.

The range offers a new perspective on Tom of Finland’s works and their modernity, affirming the artist’s great relevance in art and design today.

12 tufted rugs, based on Tom of Finland's erotic sketches

12 tufted rugs, based on Tom of Finland’s erotic sketches

Henzel Studio X Tom of Finland exhibition will run between 23rd March – 18th April
Colette Gallery, 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France 

BY ROSA BERTOLIWallpaper

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