Posts Tagged ‘John Waters

20
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland’ at The Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA)

Exhibition dates: 2nd November 2013 – 26th January 2014
MOCA Pacific Design Center

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART WORK OF MALE NUDITY AND EROTIC IMAGES OF GAY MALE SEX – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 16 Number 4, February 1968' 1968

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 16 Number 4, February 1968
1968
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

 

What a fantastic pairing in this exhibition and in their relationship in real life. We must remember that Tom of Finland was a ground-breaking artist, one of the very first to picture masculine gay men, “robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys and sailors) and recasting them – through deft skill and fantastic imagination – as unapologetic, self-aware and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex.”

He would have only just been in his twenties when he started drawing men in the early 1940s, inspired by the soldiers and uniforms he saw around him from the Second World War. With no outward gay culture in Finland, let alone in America until the late 1960s, just imagine being an artist producing this kind of erotic imagery at that time. To go on to be the seminal figure in the creation of gay leather culture… what an impact this artist had on gay and popular culture. Of course, as tastes were liberalised in the era of free love, Stonewall and after, the muscles of his hunks became bigger, the size of their endowments larger and the actions portrayed became more open and transparent (as can be seen from Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story), 1971, below).

During my PhD research I visited the One Institute/International Gay and Lesbian Archives Collection, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, to investigate the cross-over between physique magazines and early gay pornography magazines of the 1960s to early 1970s. I was interested to see whether the muscular mesomorphic bodies of the physique magazines crossed straight over into the first gay pornography magazines. To my surprise, the answer was that they did not.

After the American Supreme Court ruled on obscenity laws in the late 1960s, the first gay pornography magazines started appearing. The earliest gay porn magazine in the One Institute/IGLA collection, Action Line. No.1. San Francisco: Mark Vaughn Associates. 1969, features mostly smooth but natural bodies, not as built as in physique magazines, with nude young men with full erections lying next too each other touching. There is no sex, no sucking or fucking. Only a year later, in 1970, the story if different. In Album 1501: A Study of Sexual Activity Between Males. Los Angeles: Greyhuff Publishing, 1970 their is sexual intercourse pictured between men  in an openly available publication for the first time.

Bodies in this magazine are smooth, young toned men, much as in the early photographs of George Platt Lynes (such as those of Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball). They are also similar to the bodies in the photographs that Lynes submitted to the Zurich published homosexual magazine Der Kries after he found out that he had cancer, during the last years of his life (under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf late 1940s – early 1950s). The participants in Album 1501 perform sex on each other in a lounge room lit by strong lights (shadows on walls). The black and white photographs, well shot, feature in a magazine that is about 5″ wide and 10″ high, well laid out and printed. The magazine is a thin volume and features just the two models in one sex scene of them undressing each other and then having sex. One man wears a Pepsi-Cola T-shirt at first and he also has tattoos one of which says ‘Cheri’. The photographs almost have a private feel to them.

In their introduction the publishers disclaim any agreement with the content of the magazine and are only publishing it for the freedom of everybody to study the material in the privacy of their own homes. In other words male to male sex is a natural phenomenon and the publication is educational. This was a common ploy in early nudist and pornographic publications (along with classical themes) that was used to justify the content – to claim that the material was for private educational purposes only:

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Introduction.

“Publishers of material dealing frankly with sexual activity have suffered greatly in the past because of society’s anxiety over the existence and propagation of such material. But the real issue is why should such material dealing with sexual activity be any less valid or acceptable than material dealing with other facets of human behaviour? …
This book was produced so that all interested adults may have an opportunity to acquire it for their own private interests in matters relating to sex …
Our publication of this book is not to be construed that we agree with, condone or encourage any of the behaviour depicted herein. However, sexual activity between males is a fact of life and interested adults should not be denied an opportunity to study this, or any other, facet of human behaviour.”

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The Publishers.

 

It is interesting to note the progression from physique magazines and models in posing pouches in 1966-68 (such as the photographs of Bob Mizer featured in this posting), then to full erection and stories of anal penetration in Action Line in 1969, to full on photographs of gay sex in this magazine in 1970. Bodies are all smooth, quite solid, toned natural physiques, not as ‘built’ as in earlier physique magazines, but still featuring younger smooth men and not older heavier set men. It was not until the development of the clone, leatherman and magazines such a Colt from Colt Studios that Tom of Finland’s muscular mesomorphic leatherman took hold in the popular gay imagination.

Even in the mid 1970’s companies such as Colt Studios, which has built a reputation for photographing hunky, very well built masculine men, used classical themes in their photography of muscular young men. Most of the early Colt magazines have photographs of naked young men that are accompanied by photographs and illustrations based on classical themes. In their early magazines quite a large proportion of the bodies were hirsute or had moustaches as was popular with the ‘clone’ image at the time. Later Colt models of the early 1980’s tend towards the buff, tanned, stereotypical muscular mesomorph in even greater numbers. Sometimes sexual acts are portrayed in Colt magazines but mainly they are not. It is the “look” of the body and the face that the viewers desiring gaze is directed towards – not the sexual act itself.

Photographers such as Bob Mizer from Athletic Model Guild produced more openly homoerotic images. In his work from the 1970’s full erections are not prevalent but semi-erect penises do feature, as do revealing “moon” shots from the rear focusing on the arsehole as a site for male libidinal desires. A less closeted, more open expression of homosexual desire can be seen in the photographs of the male body in the 1970’s.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to The Museum Of Contemporary Art (MOCA) for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' 1962

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled
1962
Graphite on paper
12.00″ x 9.50″
ToFF Cat. #62.27, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1962 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 11 Number 4, May 1962' 1962

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 11 Number 4, May 1962
1962
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 7 Number 1, 1957' 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 7 Number 1, 1957
1957
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 10 Number 4, April 1961' 1961

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 10 Number 4, April 1961
1961
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (1 of 4 from 'Circus Life' series) 1961

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (1 of 4 from Circus Life series)
1961
Graphite on paper
12.25″ x 9.75″
Bob Mizer/AMG Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #61.11
© 1961 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Jim Horn, Los Angeles' c. 1966

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Jim Horn, Los Angeles
c. 1966
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Barry Maurer, Hand on Gun], Los Angeles' c. 1961

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Barry Maurer, Hand on Gun], Los Angeles
c. 1961
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Larry Lamb, with Tumbleweed], Los Angeles' c. 1959

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Larry Lamb, with Tumbleweed], Los Angeles
c. 1959
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' 1968

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled
1968
Graphite on paper
12.94″ x 9.38″
ToFF Cat. #68.06, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1968 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Youthful Innocence' 1969

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Youthful Innocence
1969
The New Biker Stud – Bob Mizer title
Graphite on paper
11.75″ x 8.50″
ToFF Cat. #69.02, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1969 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (No.1 from 'Cyclist and the Farm Boy' series) 1973

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (No.1 from Cyclist and the Farm Boy series)
1973
Graphite on paper
11″ x 8″
Bob Mizer/AMG Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #73.10
© 1973 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Ray Hornsby, Motorcycle], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Ray Hornsby, Motorcycle], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

 

“To my mind, there is no clearer representation of Mizer’s almost manic attempts to condense the joyful, celebratory chaos of his daily photo shoots down to their most selectively stupendous moments than his catalogue boards.” ~ artist and exhibition co-curator Richard Hawkins

 

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), is proud to present Bob Mizer and Tom of the Finland, the first American museum exhibition devoted to the art of Bob Mizer (1922-1992) and Touko Laaksonen, aka “Tom of Finland” (1920-1991), two of the most significant figures of twentieth century erotic art and forefathers of an emergent post-war gay culture. The exhibition features a selection of Tom of Finland’s masterful drawings and collages, alongside Mizer’s rarely seen photo-collage “catalogue boards” and films, as well as a comprehensive collection of his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial, where drawings by Tom were first published in 1957. Organised by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and guest co-curator Richard Hawkins, the exhibition is presented with the full collaboration of the Bob Mizer Foundation, El Cerrito, and the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles.

Tom of Finland is the creator of some of the most iconic and readily recognisable imagery of post-war gay culture. He produced thousands of images beginning in the 1940s, robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys and sailors) and recasting them – through deft skill and fantastic imagination – as unapologetic, self-aware and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex. His most innovative achievement though, worked out in fastidious renderings of gear, props, settings and power relations inherent therein, was to create the depictions that would eventually become the foundation of an emerging gay leather culture. Tom imagined the leather scene by drawing it; real men were inspired by it … and suited themselves up.

Bob Mizer began photographing as early as 1942 but, unlike many of his contemporaries in the subculture of illicit physique nudes, Mizer took the Hollywood star-system approach and founded the Athletic Model Guild in 1945, a film and photo studio specialising in handsome natural-bodied (as opposed to exclusively musclebound, the norm of the day) boy-next-door talent. In his myriad satirical prison dramas, sci-fi flix, domesticated bachelor scenarios and elegantly captivating studio sessions, Mizer photographed and filmed over 10,000 models at a rough estimate of 60 photos a day, seven days a week for almost 50 years. Mizer always presented a fresh-faced and free, unashamed and gregarious, totally natural and light-hearted approach to male nudity and intimate physical contact between men. For these groundbreaking perspectives in eroticised representation alone, Mizer ranks with Alfred Kinsey at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

Though Laaksonen did not move to Los Angeles until the 1970s, he had long known of Mizer and the photographer’s work through Physique Pictorial, the house publication and sales tool for Athletic Model Guild. It was to this magazine that the artist first sent his drawings and it was Mizer, finding the artworks remarkable and seeking to promote them on the magazine’s cover, but finding the artist’s Finnish name too difficult for his clientele, who is responsible for the now famous “Tom of Finland” pseudonym.

By the time the gay liberation movement swept through the United States in the late 1960s, both Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer were already well-known and widely celebrated as veritable pioneers of gay art. Decades before Stonewall and the raid on the Black Cat these evocative and lusty representations of masculine desire and joyful, eager sex between men proliferated and were disseminated worldwide at a time when the closet was still very much the norm – there was no such thing as a gay community. If these artists were not ahead of their time, they might just have foreseen and even invented a time.

Spanning five decades, the exhibition seeks a wider appreciation for Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer’s work, considering their aesthetic influence on generations of artists, both gay and straight, among them, Kenneth Anger, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, David Hockney, G.B. Jones, Mike Kelley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henrik Olesen, Jack Pierson, John Waters, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition also acknowledges the profound cultural and social impact both artists have made, especially in providing open, powerful imagery for a community of desires at a time when it was still very much criminal. Presenting the broader historical context and key aspects of their shared interests and working relationship, as well as more in-depth solo rooms dedicated to each artist, the exhibition establishes the art historical importance of the staggering work of these legendary figures.

In addition to approximately 75 finished and preparatory drawings by Tom of Finland spanning 1947-1991, the exhibition includes a selection of Tom’s never before exhibited scrapbook collages, and examples of his serialised graphic novels, including the legendary leatherman Kake, as well as a selection of Mizer’s “catalogue boards,” AMG films, and a complete set of Physique Pictorial magazine. An accompanying publication includes texts by the exhibition co-curators and a selection of images.

Press release from the MOCA website

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Ray Hornsby, with Skull Staff], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Ray Hornsby, with Skull Staff], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Ernie Rabb, Pointed Pistol], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Ernie Rabb, Pointed Pistol], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 1' story) 1971

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 1 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.75″
COQ International Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.24
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Jungle Seafood' story) 1972

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Jungle Seafood story)
1972
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.63″ x 6.94″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #72.41
© 1972 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Larry Lamb, Profile with Chains], Los Angeles' c. 1959

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Larry Lamb, Profile with Chains], Los Angeles
c. 1959
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Dennis Schreffer, Wand Balance], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Dennis Schreffer, Wand Balance], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Dennis Schreffer with Portrait], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Dennis Schreffer with Portrait], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 2' story) 1971

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.25″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.45
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 2' story) 197

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.25″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.58
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 1 of SW series]' c. 1965

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 1 of SW series]
c. 1965
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 2 of SW series]' c. 1965

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 2 of SW series]
c. 1965
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 57 of XT series]' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 57 of XT series]
c. 1957
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 58 of XT series]' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 58 of XT series]
c. 1957
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 2' story) 1971

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.25″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.61
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

 

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8687 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069

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27
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery’ at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2012 – 3rd February 2013

 

Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien

 

Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräsentation: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery

 

 

I can die happy now that I have had the opportunity to do a posting on this amazing man. He challenged social stereotypes turning his body into an every changing, ever challenging work of art. He used his body as a canvas and inscribed narratives upon it. He used these narratives to challenge the dominant discourse, offering himself as material evidence to facilitate new perspectives. His body became a performance, the self as performance, one that was not fully pre-determined, for you never knew what he would do next, what social outrage he would offer up.

Through masks, makeup, wigs and body modification, Bowery confronted the viewer with an/other field of existence, one that promoted an encounter with the face of the other, causing an emotional response in the audience, the viewer. As Wendy Garden observes, “Being faced with another provokes a reaction: it makes an appeal, demands an engagement.”1 We cannot look away for we do not know what Bowery will do next. He used his large body, its bulk and presence to bring the viewer face-to-face with an/other. The magnification of his size and the emphasis and manipulation of his face, especially the mouth and eyes, rescales his presence in front of the viewer – at his performances, in the photographs of Bowery. For example, look at his creation Evening Wear – Andrew Logan’s 1986 Alternative Miss World (1986, below). Impossibly high and luridly coloured boots, leggings, a bustled and bedazzled jacket / skirt combo, crash helmet and the most maniacal black and white face you will ever see. Bowery unbalances the fixity of the single perspective and through his transgression destabilises the mastering gaze.

I was living in London at the time Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Marilyn and Divine were strutting their stuff in the nightclubs of London town. What a time. Maggie Thatcher (and I can hardly bring myself to type her name) was Prime Minister of a right wing Conservative government from 1979-1990, a period of social oppression of minorities, the breaking of the trade unions, the beginning of HIV/AIDS. Think Boy George’s famous song No Clause 28 that protested against a local government act that “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” Bowery was a child of his time, a prescient, sentient being who was out there doing his thing, challenging the dominant paradigms of a patriarchal society. He burned like a comet, bright in the sky, and then was gone all too early. But he will never be forgotten. What a man.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. 1Garden, Wendy. “Ethical witnessing and the portrait photograph: Brook Andrew,” in Journal of Australian Studies Vol. 35, No. 2, June 2011, p. 261.

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Many thankx to Kunsthalle Wien for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Leigh Bowery

 

Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien

 

Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräs: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery; Cerith Wyn Evans, In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni, 2008
Courtesy Cerith Wyn Evans und White Cube

 

Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien

 

Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräsentation: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery

 

Charles Atlas. 'Teach' 1992-98

 

Charles Atlas
Teach
1992-98
Video-Still
© Charles Atlas, Courtesy Vilma Gold, London

 

Werner Pawlok. 'Portrait Leigh Bowery 3' 1988

 

Werner Pawlok (German, b. 1953)
Portrait Leigh Bowery 3
1988
Courtesy Werner Pawlok

 

 

“”I think of myself as a canvas,” fashion pioneer Leigh Bowery once said about himself. If there were a formula to describe this enfant terrible who refused all categorisation throughout his life, this would be it: turning oneself into a work of art. Presenting himself in the most garish ways that defied all conventions and stylising himself as a walking work of art, Leigh Bowery, who was born in Australia in 1961, stirred up London’s sub-culture of the 1980s in the wake of post punk and New Romanticism. Being friends with stars of the scene like Michael Clark and Cerith Wyn Evans, he continuously reinvented himself on the manifold stages of the metropolis.

The show highlights Leigh Bowery’s life and work between fashion, performance, music, dance, and sculpture by presenting rarely exhibited costumes, numerous films, photographs, music videos, talk shows, and magazines. It approaches Bowery by way of artistic descriptions, reflections, and documentations in the work of friends, supporters, and colleagues, whose source of inspiration, entertainer, and muse he was: Bowery’s performative enactments oscillating between masquerade and radical self-expression were captured by filmmakers such as Charles Atlas, Dick Jewell, Baillie Walsh, and John Maybury. It took Fergus Greer a number of sessions that stretched over six years to shoot the legendary photo series Looks. As Charles Atlas’s Teach shows, Leigh Bowery developed his unmistakable outfits, gestures, and poses in multiple forms of self-reflection under his companions’ critical eye. Bowery’s one-week performance in the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London (1988) involved a two-way mirror: while the public could watch Leigh Bowery changing his outfits for hours on end, he saw only his own mirror image and remained inescapably confronted with himself and his movements. Though Bowery claimed that he had had to fight his shame initially and hid his room-filling physique behind conspicuous materials such as tulle, glitter, paint, and satin, his performances were anything but embarrassing: “The rest of us used drag and make-up to disguise our blemishes and physical defects. Leigh made them the focal point of his art,” Boy George once remarked. The nightclubs of London provided Bowery with catwalks on which to flaunt his visions of himself and let him always come out on top in terms of maximum attention. Lucian Freud, the British prince of painters, took great pleasure in Leigh Bowery’s fascinating personality and the fullness of his naked body. Bowery became one of his most important models, and the artist depicted him as he could never be seen in public: natural, intimate, and vulnerable.

Leigh Bowery’s art clearly differs from the designs, presentation patterns, and distribution channels of fashion designers. With Trash and Bad Taste irony, Bowery, like his idol John Waters and his main actor Divine, abandoned all conventions and stylistic doctrines in a both cynical and humorous way. His craftsmanship in tailoring and his creative potential constitute the core of an expressive self-stylisation which did not depend on encouraging the public through marketing strategies or offers of consumer goods. His vestimentary creations were based on the work with his own body, which he regarded as a malleable material and workable mass and which was to play an increasingly central part in his late oeuvre. Regarded as inexorably deficient, his body became the origin of those manifold appearances and kaleidoscopic diversifications that we find most astounding when confronted with Bowery’s work. He experimented with second skins of black latex, exaggerated the size and volume of his body with sweeping tulle attires, and made himself look taller with platform shoes. Bowery sabotaged glamorous, ornamental and transparent materials with steel helmets, toilet seats, and skulls. He fastened artificial lips in his cheeks with safety pins and wore flesh-coloured velvet suits that transformed his body into a vagina. Using adhesive tape and a bodice, he shaped his flesh into an artificial bosom, and he concealed his member behind pubic hair toupees or overemphasised it as he did in one of the Michael Clark Company’s dance performances. He disparaged unequivocal gender definitions and transcended their socially informed attributions – Gender Trouble: everything was a look. By and by, Bowery turned into what has been called “the self as performance.”

Leigh Bowery’s existence was the epitome of extremes. He looked for exceptional emotional and physical states like pain and ecstasy that would release him from the mediocrity of everyday life, like in the performance The Laugh of No.12 in Fort Asperen on June 4, 1994. Suspended on one foot, stark naked, wearing a black face mask, and displaying some clothespins on his genitals, he swung through the air uttering a sprechgesang, before he smashed a pane of glass with his bulky body. Exposing himself to his vulnerability in his performances, Bowery overcame physical injuries by showcasing them. His sometimes sadomasochist appearances and provocative lifestyle culminated in an attitude that crystallised into a sociopolitical approach in his statement “I like doing the opposite of what people expect.” Far from nocturnal footlights and kindred spirits’ protection, he – who was “larger than life” in every respect – strained the social limits of propriety with his big and exalted appearance. He enjoyed causing offence and holding up a mirror to the dictatorship of conformism, unmasking its heteronomy.

After an excessive life, Leigh Bowery died from AIDS at the age of 33. He was more than an extraordinary peripheral figure making his mark in the urban arena of exhibitionism and voyeurism. His virtuoso works have influenced haute couture collections by such fashion stars as Rei Kawakubo, John Galliano, Walter van Beirendonck, and Alexander McQueen. In spite of its simplicity, the latest fall/winter collection of Comme des Garçons shows obvious parallels to Leigh Bowery’s designs.”

Press release from the Kunsthalle Wien website

 

Robin Beeche. 'Evening Wear - Andrew Logan's 1986 Alternative Miss World' 1986

 

Robin Beeche (Australian, 1945-2015)
Evening Wear – Andrew Logan’s 1986 Alternative Miss World
1986
Courtesy Robin Beeche

 

Nick Knight. 'Untitled (Leigh Bowery with Scull)' 1992

 

Nick Knight (British, b. 1958)
Untitled (Leigh Bowery with Scull)
1992
© Nick Knight

 

Ole Christiansen. 'Farrel House' 1989

 

Ole Christiansen (Danish)
Farrel House
1989
Courtesy Ole Christiansen

 

Fergus Greer. 'Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 38, June 1994' 1994

 

Fergus Greer (British)
Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 38, June 1994
1994
Courtesy Fergus Greer
© Fergus Greer

 

 

Kunsthalle Wien
Museumsplatz 1
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 7pm
Thursday 10am – 10pm

Kunsthalle Wien website

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13
Sep
11

Exhibition, Films, Events and Symposia: ‘Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London

Dates: 7th – 18th September 2011

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-1962/2011

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original colour negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

 

His photographic works are rare and remain largely unknown according to Wikipedia. They shouldn’t be.

Marcus

 

“Jack Smith (November 14, 1932 in Columbus, Ohio – September 25, 1989 in New York City) was an American filmmaker, actor, and pioneer of underground cinema. He is generally acclaimed as a founding father of American performance art, and has been critically recognised as a master photographer, though his photographic works are rare and remain largely unknown.

Smith was one of the first proponents of the aesthetics which came to be known as ‘camp’ and ‘trash’, using no-budget means of production (e.g. using discarded colour reversal film stock) to create a visual cosmos heavily influenced by Hollywood kitsch, orientalism and with Flaming Creatures created drag culture as it is currently known. Smith was heavily involved with John Vaccaro, founder of The Playhouse of The Ridiculous, whose disregard for conventional theater practice deeply influenced Smith’s ideas about performance art. In turn, Vaccaro was deeply influenced by Smith’s aesthetics. It was Vaccaro who introduced Smith to glitter and in 1966 and 1967, Smith created costumes for Vaccaro’s Playhouse of The Ridiculous. Smith’s style influenced the film work of Andy Warhol as well as the early work of John Waters. While all three were part of the 1960s gay arts movement, Vaccaro and Smith refuted the idea that their sexual orientation was responsible for their art.

After his last film, No President (1967), Smith created performance and experimental theatre work until his death on September 25, 1989 from AIDS-related pneumonia.”

Text from Wikipedia entry

.
Many thankx to the ICA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' 1982

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
1982
Mixed media on paper
6 1/8 x 8 7/8 inches (15.6 x 22.5 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-1962/2011

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-1962/2011
Black and white gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-1962/2011

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original colour negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

 

Legendary American artist, filmmaker and actor Jack Smith (1932-1989), described by Andy Warhol as the only person he would ever copy and by John Waters as “the only true underground filmmaker”, is celebrated at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in film, performance and debate with a retrospective of Smith’s work from 7 to 18 September 2011.

Working in New York from the 1950s until his death in 1989, Smith unequivocally resisted and upturned accepted conventions, whether artistic, moral or legal. Irreverent in tone and delirious in effect, Smith’s films, such as the notorious Flaming Creatures (1963), are both wildly camp and subtly polemical. Smith is best known for his contributions to underground cinema but his influence extends across performance art, photography and experimental theatre.

A Feast for Open Eyes: Jack Smith maps out the breadth of Smith’s practice, from his collaborative film productions to his individual writings, and looks at his legacy in the UK drawing upon a generation of New York artists with whom Smith was closely involved, including Jonas Mekas and Penny Arcade, and younger artists and filmmakers whom he influenced. John Zorn, a long-term Smith collaborator selects records to accompany an installation of slides documenting Smith’s work, as he used to in collaboration with Smith in the 1970s and 80s.

The retrospective opens with a screening of Flaming Creatures introduced by Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, who was a close friend of Smith’s. The film is followed by the screening of an interview, recorded exclusively for the ICA this summer, with Jonas Mekas, a founder member of Anthology Film Archives who faced obscenity charges for defending Flaming Creatures in the 1960s. The presentation is introduced by Dominic Johnson, author of the forthcoming monograph Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture (Manchester University Press) and co-curator of A Feast for Open Eyes.

Press release from the ICA website

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1978

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1978
Mixed media on paper
13 x 20 3/4 inches (33 x 52.7 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-1962/2011

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original colour negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-1962/2011

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-1962/2011
Black and white gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-1962/2011

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-1962/2011
Black and white gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

Jack Smith. 'Untitled' c. 1958-62

 

Jack Smith (American, 1932-1989)
Untitled
c. 1958-62
Color negative
2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches 
(5.7 x 5.7 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

 

 

Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall,
London,
SW1Y 5AH

Opening hours:
Monday – Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 12 noon – 11pm
Thursday – Saturday 12 noon – 1am
Sunday 12 noon – 9pm

ICA website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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