“TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland” | 19th April – 19th May | Detroit

Bust out the poppers: Tom of Finland’s leather boys are hitting Detroit. Goons whining about perversion and pornography in the presence of his illustrations don’t know sublime weirdness when it strips for them. Classical sculptures on steroids emitting an angelic glow, Finland’s bodies have the same sci-fi sexiness as H. R. Giger’s aliens, complete with nuclear-missile dicks and flesh that looks like latex. MOCAD shows them off inside Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, amid juicy photographs, ephemera, and works from Finland devotees such as John Waters, Richard Hawkins, and Raymond Pettibon, creating an art-historical biker gang at once homoerotic and magical. They all transform so-called trash into beauty. Free your mind and your ass will follow.

Charlie Fox

John Waters’ 2017 film picks include “Tom of Finland”

DOME KARUKOSKI, Tom of Finland, 2017, 4K video, color, sound, 116 minutes.

“This dirty but dignified, oddly commercial biopic of the artist who inspired the modern-day s/m gay leather scene is now the Finnish government’s official entry in the 2017 foreign-film Oscar race. That’s what I call patriotic penis progress, and I hope it wins.”

Best of 2015


TOM OF FINLAND (ARTISTS SPACE, NEW YORK) The year’s sexiest show was also one of its smartest. In the gallery’s main space, Tom’s meticulously refined drawings—as elegant as they are erotic—were installed in a series of parallel corridors, offering viewers a series of intimate encounters with the works and engendering an excitement not unlike that of cruising. Even when they’re not designed as storyboard sequences, his pictures have a terrific narrative compression—an energy straining for the inevitable climax. His pumped-up supermen are ready for anything, often in full view of voyeurs who act as stand-ins for an avid audience. At the satellite gallery on Walker Street, the annex show of densely collaged scrapbook pages—faces, physiques, fetish wear—was a fascinating glimpse into Tom’s private library of sources and inspirations.

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1985, Graphite on paper, 13.00” x 9.38”, © 1985 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1985, Graphite on paper, 13.00” x 9.38”, © 1985 Tom of Finland Foundation

Vince Aletti reviews photography exhibitions for the New Yorker and photography books for Photographmagazine. He contributes regularly to Aperture, W, and Document. Untitled Anonymous, a book featuring found photographs from his collection of male images, was published in September by Andrew Roth’s PPP Editions.