Pioneering pornography producer Bob Mizer’s work was heavily suppressed in the 1950s, so much so that he was arrested and charged with the dissemination of obscene materials. Now, as gay culture gains more acceptance in both the art-world and the mainstream, Mizer is being honored as an important figure in shaping the erotic imagery of men. Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland, a new exhibition dedicated to iconic and rare works by Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish) and erotic photographer Mizer, will be on view at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
The show revisits how gay artists in the mid-20th century were “robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys, and sailors) and recasting them—through deft skill and fantastic imagination—as unapologetic, self-aware, and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex.”
The exhibition will feature a selection of Laaksonen’s iconic and masterful drawings and books, alongside Mizer’s photographs, films, and examples of his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial—where drawings by “Tom of Finland” were first published in the United States in 1957. Spanning work of five decades, the exhibition seeks a wider appreciation for Mizer and Laaksonen’s art, considering their aesthetic influence on generations of artists, both gay and straight, while also acknowledging its profound cultural and social impact, most importantly in providing open, powerful imagery of queer sexuality in an era of rapidly shifting attitudes towards homosexuality.
We’ll be sure to get out there to have ourselves an, um, aesthetic experience.
Yes, let’s go with that.
By Eric Shorey
The exhibition features a selection of Tom of Finland’s masterful drawings and collages, alongside Mizer’s rarely seen photo-collage “catalogue boards” and films, as well as a comprehensive collection of his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial, where drawings by Tom were first published in 1957. Organized by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and guest Co-Curator Richard Hawkins, the exhibition is presented with the full collaboration of the Bob Mizer Foundation, El Cerrito, and the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles.
Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland is presented at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, 11.02.13 – 01.26.14. moca.org