“#RAWHIDE” | 9th May | NYC

Venus

Co-Curated by Dylan Brant & Vivian Brodie

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Preparatory drawing), c. 1982, Graphite on paper, 8.25” x 5.75”, © 1982 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Preparatory drawing), c. 1982, Graphite on paper, 8.25” x 5.75”, © 1982 Tom of Finland Foundation

Richard Avedon, Edward Curtis, Tom of Finland, Mark Flood, Dennis Hopper, Ray Johnson, Mike Kelley, Roy Lichtenstein, Bob Mizer, Richard Prince, Frederic Remington, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and many more.

The image of the cowboy in art has been transformed from its mythological beginnings in the late nineteenth to its complex identity today.  #RAWHIDE is an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and photographs that will explore art’s ability to influence our interpretation of this quintessential archetype that is the ultimate icon of the American identity.  Renowned artists have found inspiration not only in the cowboy, but also in all the possibilities of what this American symbol can be. Whether inspiring hope, fearlessness, or cliché, the multifaceted image of the Cowboy only serves to enhance his myth, and provides several interpretations and conflicts leading us to question the very foundations of our American story.

On a recent afternoon, Dylan Brant, stepson of media mogul and art collector Peter Brant, whom he refers to as “Dad”, was in the office at Venus Over Manhattan, Adam Lindemann’s gallery on the Upper East Side. Brant was preparing for a show he curated that opens next month at the gallery. Organized with Vivian Brodie, it’s called Rawhide and looks at masculine identity and cowboy imagery in art from the late 19th century to the present. -Miller, M.H., “City Slicker: Cowboy Fanatic Dylan Brant Curates Show at Venus Over Manhattan”, ArtNews, April 20, 2015.

Opening Reception: 6–8p
Through 11th July

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“Early Work 1944 – 1972” | 17th January | LA

Capture5130 West Edgewood Place
Los Angeles, California  90019

Touko Laaksonen a.k.a. Tom of Finland (1920 – 1991) is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s most influential artists for his revolutionary representation of the male figure. His drawings of fantastically muscled men engrossed in acts of homoerotic desire comprise one of the most inventive portrayals of the human body in modern times. These pictures of gay men as virile, confident, and unashamed–equally radical for their near illicit, underground distribution–originated an empowering queer iconography and liberating spirit that increasingly inspires popular culture.

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1947, Gouache on paper, 11.31 x 8.19 in (28.7 x 20.8 cm), © 1947 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1947, Gouache on paper, 11.31 x 8.19 in (28.7 x 20.8 cm), © 1947 Tom of Finland Foundation

This exhibition surveys the artist’s formative years across fifteen works, each selected in close collaboration with the Los Angeles-based Tom of Finland Foundation. These graphite drawings, gouaches, and inked storyboards–the majority of which have never been shown before–broadly trace the evolution of Tom’s exquisite draftsmanship and compositions from his earliest extant erotic works, executed just after serving in the Finnish Army during WWII, through to a complete comic produced in 1972, the year before Tom both earned his first solo exhibition, and retired from his advertising career to devote himself full-time to his art.

Among the earliest works featured is a group of rare sketches from 1944 depicting clothed couples enjoying sensual trysts. The delicate fashion-illustrational style and the coifed hairstyles reflect the era, but the exposed and exaggerated genitalia, a burgeoning pre-steroid musculature, and most significantly, expressions of pride and playfulness signal Tom’s pioneering approach to sexuality. At the time, homosexuality was unequivocally taboo, if not illegal, and the dominant image of gay men was that of weakness, sickness, and effeteness. In a masterful 1947 gouache on view, Tom both flouts and acknowledges these prejudices with the depiction of a commanding, strong-jawed figure discreetly pleasuring his companion. The picture also displays an early fetish for leather and military garb, trappings Tom would adopt throughout his world as symbols of power and masculinity.

A selection of finished drawings from 1957 to 1970 further redefines archetypes. Beginning with Bob Mizer’s LA-based beefcake magazine Physique Pictorial, Tom began publishing his pictures as multi-image stories in proto-zine periodicals. To populate this expanding universe, he (predating the appropriations of punk) radically coopted working class, macho, and heterosexual identities, in particular the bikers, sailors, cowboys, and circus performers on view. Seen here idyllically cavorting, these Adonises emulate the aspiring freedoms of the decade. Each composition is charged as much with moments of looking as touching, mirroring the gaze of the viewer, and suggesting a heightened openness to the dynamics of visibility.

The exhibition’s chronology culminates in a 1972 multi-panel comic featuring Kake, Tom’s recurring alter ego superhero and the original gay leatherman clone, seducing a “Tom’s TV” repairman during a house call. Published as Kake Vol. 11 TV Repair, one of 26 stories the artist released from 1968 to 1986, this sequence of 20 images (plus cover) comprise the final photo-ready artwork for press production. Accordingly, Tom supplants his graphite tonal gradients with the graphic, commercial art punch of pen and gouache, and the character of Kake, an easygoing if horny everyman, takes on a Sunday morning regularity. Similarly, the ecstasy of TV Repair is set within a conventional house with framed artwork on its walls. The artworks are photo-collaged reproductions of Tom’s own “dirty drawings”, and what is suggestively invoked is a world in which the permissiveness of Tom of Finland is a part of every living room.

An accompanying, fully illustrated catalogue, designed by Brian Roettinger and featuring an essay by Kevin McGarry, will be published.

The exhibition will open January 17, 2015 and will continue on view through March 7, 2015.

 

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