The first comprehensive Tom of Finland survey exhibition in the US, to include over 120 drawings, rarely seen gouaches from the 1940s, the complete set of over 600 pages of collages from his reference binders as well as early childhood drawings.
Finnish artist Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, 1920, Kaarina – 1991, Helsinki), is considered to be the most iconic Gay artist of the 20th century. But it has taken until today, nearly 25 years after his death, to fully comprehend and acknowledge the wide-reaching artistic importance and cultural impact oeuvre.
Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play is the first exhibition to examine, analyze and present the historic role that his work plays in addressing and transgressing stereotypes of gender, sexuality, race, class and power relations.
TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Panel 20 from Kake vol. 20), 1977, Pen and ink on paper, 13.13” x 9.44”, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #77.70, © 1977 Tom of Finland Foundation
From the 1930s to 1990s, Tom of Finland’s biography parallels core moments of 20th century Gay history; bearing witness to the disasters, the turmoil and the radical changes that took place during that period. Indeed, Tom of Finland’s work can be read in dialectical relationship to those changes and the often oppressive culture that surrounded him. As such, his work is not only a fearless portrait of sexuality spanning six decades, but moreover it is also a portrait of the sadomasochistic relationship that is at play between culture and sub-culture. Perhaps it is exactly this which makes Tom of Finland’s work not only a representation of, but indeed a fetish itself.
Starting with his early drawings, Tom of Finland played with the iconographic conventions upon which both the representation and conceptions of masculinity are based. His emblematic, larger-than-life drawn phalluses represent not only a threat to the existing symbolic heterosexual order, but in equal terms reorganize the principles by which gay desires are structured.
Runs through 23rd August 2015
Opening: Saturday, 13th June, 6 – 8p