Twenty-five years after his death, Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, 1920–1991) will receive his first comprehensive survey at NYC’s Artists Space. The exhibition will include more than 140 drawings, rarely seen gouaches from the 1940s, over 600 pages of collages, and his early childhood drawings.
Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play is being touted as the “first exhibition to examine, analyze and present the historic role that his art plays in addressing and transgressing stereotypes of gender, sexuality, race, class and power relations.” Tom, of course, is the iconic gay Finnish artist whose work brought a machismo to the representation of gay men.
His work was a little bit sexy, too.
Tom studied advertising in Helsinki, but was soon drafted to join the Finnish Army in its fight against the Soviet invasion. After the war, Laaksonen worked as art director at McCann Erickson, a job he quit in 1973 in order to commit himself fully to his art. His international career was jump started in 1957 in LA through his ongoing contributions to Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial. Tom later entered into a friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, whom he met in 1978 in San Francisco and who helped him in 1980 to realize his first gallery exhibition in New York. In the late ’70s, on one of his frequent visits to the US, he met Durk Dehner, with whom he founded the Tom of Finland Foundation in 1984, based in Echo Park, LA.
Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play will run from June 14 to August 23. Founded in 1972 in downtown New York, Artists Space has for four decades successfully contributed to changing the landscape for contemporary art – lending support to emerging artists and emerging ideas alike.
If you need your Tom of Finland fix early, climb into Rufskin’s collection featuring his work.