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.
Tom of Finland is currently the subject of the solo exhibition, TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland, at Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, on view through 19th May.