Ben Youdan’s “MASC – The Men of Los Angeles”

BEN YOUDAN (Briton, 1979-) at TOM House

I first met Ben when he was visiting Berlin for Folsom EU and must say that not only is his intricate art amazing, he is also one of the nicest people I have ever encountered!

Over afternoon coffee and cake as in Berlin tradition, he shared his story and about the processes he uses in making his artworks.

Ben’s pieces employ a wide variety of techniques and elements including collage, painting, printmaking and photography, to create imagery that takes inspiration from the iconography and printed collectibles of popular culture as well as Queer identity. His elaborate pieces explore themes such as fetish, glamour, masculinity, and sexuality. They are a true handmade product and a comment on the human condition in the context of the new media landscape.

Everybody needs some sparkle in their life

He has participated in the Homotopia arts festival, as well as the Liverpool Biennial, and Liverpool Pride. In addition to this, his work has been featured on Madonna’s latest world tour and a wide variety of group shows in the United States and across Europe. Since then,  Ben has had he has had three solo shows in the U.K.and an exhibition at the Liverpool Museum of Art in his hometown.  Then he accepted an offer to be an Artist in Residence of the Tom of Finland Foundation house in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

Specifically for this Los Angeles exhibition Ben has created a series of six mixed media portraits in the unique and inspiring atmosphere of TOM house and has been facilitated by having the opportunity to make incredible connections within the Leather community of Los Angeles. The work seeks to embody the message of freedom contained in Tom of Finland’s oeuvre and attempts to contextualise this in a contemporary way that is a direct response to a variety of external influences.

The work seeks to be an exuberant celebration of male beauty, the male form and its erotic nature, by exploring the archetype of the Leatherman and challenging preconceptions of masculinity. There is a visual subtext of sensuality contained within the works that attempt to promote a sex-positive attitude.

This is all very important, as it has been created against a backdrop of troubling times. With the Internet being continually censored, and the neoconservatives appearing to have a prevailing influence in our culture that flies in the face of societal progression made from the 1960s to the present day, I strongly believe artists should make a conscious decision to react against this and fight back. Queer art is a protest. (bw)

OPENING 16th February

By Black Boot



TOM’s Foundation thanks Berlin Leder und Fetisch and Tyrone Rontganger
for the generous donation of monies raised at this uplifting event.

We are grateful to have been part of this exhilarating evening.

Leatherpride Belgium 2019
Ticket sales – 21st February


“The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art of the 1970s, Photographs by Greg Day” | 1st March | LA

West Hollywood

GREG DAY, Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest), 22 March 1976. Digital print, 2018. © Greg Day, 2019

In costumes made from street trash, food waste, and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (American,1946–1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art”. With disruption as his aim, he led uninvited costumed tours through the galleries of SoHo, occupied Fifth Avenue gutters, and burst into banks and boutiques in his gender-confounding ensembles. Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances. While maintaining he/him as his pronouns, Varble performed gender as an open question in both his life and his work, sometimes identifying as a female persona, Marie Debris, and sometimes playing up his appearance as a Gay man. Only later would the term “genderqueer” emerge to describe the kind of self-made, non-binary gender options that Varble adopted throughout his life and in his disruptions of the 1970s art world.

At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (American, 1944-) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Trained as an artist and anthropologist and with a keen eye for documenting ephemeral culture as it flourished, Day took hundreds of photographs of Varble’s trash couture, public performances, and events in 1975 and 1976. Varble understood the importance of photographers, and Day was his most important photographic collaborator. This exhibition brings together a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble performing his costume works and also includes Day’s photographs of Varble’s friends and collaborators such as Peter Hujar, Jimmy DeSana, Shibata Atsuko, Agosto Machado, and Warhol stars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead, and Mario Montez.

Varble sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both. The story of Varble told through Day’s photographs is both about their synergistic artistic friendship and about the queer networks and communities that made such an anti-institutional and genderqueer practice imaginable. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future.

This exhibition builds upon the 2018 retrospective of Stephen Varble’s work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, titled Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble, as featured in the New York Times on January 11, 2019. This new show, with its focus on the collaboration of Varble with the photographer Greg Day, will explore the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerilla performance art has lived on primarily through vibrant photographs that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash, and public confrontations.

Reception 5-8p

On view through 17th May