The Spring issue of The Archive, the journal of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, contained an appreciative write-up of the Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland exhibition held at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) from November 2, 2013-January 26, 2014.
Written by Hunter O’Hanian, Director of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the article discussed both the MOCA exhibition and Art & Physique Circa Bob & Tom, a coinciding exhibition at the ONE Archives Gallery and Museum. O’Hanian’s article was titled “Pretty and Think: Two Exhibitions in LA Explore the Work of Tom of Finland, Bob Mizer, and Others”.
Praising the MOCA exhibition as “marvellous”, O’Hanian singled out “a few standouts among so many iconic and wonderful masterpieces” by Tom of Finland:
The works shown from The Tattooed Sailor series (1962) are so rich in their simplicity and creativity, as men mark and adorn each other in a loving manner. Sensual and sexy, they display the simple yet powerful affection men can show as they share something considered so taboo, yet ultimately harmless. Likewise, Tom’s Men – the depiction of 14 archetypical gay male figures lined up on either side of a shamelessly naked male figure, gave us a new look at a congregation of individuals. Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper immediately came to mind – however, in Tom’s gathering, there is no anguish, deceit or impending doom. Rather, the sole unifying principle is the camaraderie among likeminded but diverse individuals. (p. 11)
As O’Hanian stated: “Fans of Tom’s sexually explicit work depicting men from the leather, uniform, and fetish communities were not to be disappointed.”
The issue in which Hunter O’Hanian’s article appears (see pages 10-12) can be read online, and is available as both a PDF and on the Issuu digital publishing platform.
‘What does it mean to make queer art now?’ Paul Clinton asks artists and writers Catherine Lord, Carlos Motta, Charlotte Prodger, James Richards, Prem Sahib and A.L. Steiner to respond.
Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Activists and theorists began using the term ‘queer’ in the early 1990s at a moment of political exhaustion. Representations of AIDS as a specifically gay disease made it necessary to challenge categories of sexual identity. There was also dissent from those who felt excluded from the gay rights movement on the grounds of gender presentation, race or desire. Queer was not simply an indicator of identity but a refusal of being identified, fixed and assimilated. Much art of the time also exchanged flag-waving affirmation for critique – take, for example, Glenn Ligon’s Notes on the Margin of the Black Book (1991–93), an appropriation of Robert Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic photographs of black men, annotated to isolate their troubling racial fetishism.
In 2014, politics once considered radical are now routinely taught on undergraduate arts courses, antiretroviral drugs are available to the lucky few and gay marriage is recognized in a number of countries. Yet, homophobia and transphobia persist. Though in some ways queer art might seem like something of an anachronism, recent shows and events in London – including ‘Keep Your Timber Limber’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, ‘Rasberry Poser’ at Chisenhale Gallery and ‘Charming for the Revolution’ at Tate Modern – as well as ‘Tom of Finland+Bob Mizer’ at LA MOCA, the number of sexually dissident artists in this year’s Whitney Biennial and a forthcoming exhibition on art after identity politics at M_KHA, Antwerp, all attest to a renewed interest in alternative sexualities and subjectivities in art. I asked a range of artists and writers to reflect on the current state of art drawn from queer culture.
Paul Clinton is editorial assistant of frieze, based in London, UK.
READ THE RESPONSES