Steven Arnold: Cabinet of Curiosities

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Doppelganger, c. 1980s Silver Gelatin Print 13.5 X 13.5 Inches © Courtesy of the Steven Arnold Archive
Steven Arnold: Cabinet of Curiosities
Curated by: David Frantz

626 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood , CA 90069
October 27th, 2012 - January 13th, 2013
Opening: October 27th, 2012 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

west hollywood/b.h.
Thursday, 4-8pm; Friday, Saturday & Sunday: 1-5pm
queer, genderqueer, lgbtqi, lgbt, lgbtq, gay, photography, surrealism, figurative
Admission is free - suggested donation of $5


ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives presents Steven Arnold: Cabinet of Curiosities, a retrospective exhibition of this groundbreaking yet under-recognized queer artist at the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum in West Hollywood. The exhibition celebrates Arnold’s radical imagination, presenting many of his tableaux vivant photographs alongside never before exhibited drawings, sketchbooks, paintings and original poster art. In conjunction with the exhibition, ONE will screen Arnold’s four films, including Luminous Procuress (1970), which featured The Cockettes and was lauded by Salvador Dali.

Steven Arnold (1943-1994) is best known for his work with film in San Francisco during the 1960s and early 70s and later for his visionary tableaux vivant photographs produced at Zanzibar, his Los Angeles studio, during the 1980s. Deeply influenced by Jungian archetypes, Eastern philosophy, and ancient ritual, Arnold understood visual production as a key to the spiritual and subconscious, depicting alternative worlds with dramatic style and sly humor across numerous mediums. Arnold spoke about his practice of drawing as a means of making visible his dreams and compared his photography to religious meditation.

Steven Arnold: Cabinet of Curiosities presents works from the entirety of Arnold’s output as an artist, including his elaborate black and white photographs from the 1980s, many on view for the first time. The exhibition also features two accordion sketchbooks from 1967 which unfold to reveal a continuous dreamlike landscape, and a series of erotic drawings that join, contort and convolute ambitiously gendered bodies. Additionally, a number of surrealist portraits Arnold produced between 1973 and 74 will be on display, as well as original poster art used to promote films and psychedelic rock concerts in San Francisco during the late 1960s. By presenting Arnold’s later photographs alongside earlier drawings and paintings, the exhibition strives to uncover aspects of the artist’s visual language he explored throughout his lifetime. All works are on loan from the Steven Arnold Archive.

In conjunction with this exhibition, ONE will screen all four of Arnold’s films as well as a special preview of an upcoming documentary about Arnold at the West Hollywood Library located next to the ONE Gallery. On Saturday, November 17, ONE will show two of Arnold’s short films, The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique (1967) and Various Incarnations of a Tibetan Seamstress (1967), with his feature-length Luminous Procuress (1970), which starred Arnold’s muse Pandora and featured the gender-bending San Francisco performance troupe The Cockettes.  Luminous Procuress brought Arnold considerable attention as an avant-garde filmmaker, and so impressed Salvador Dali that he invited Arnold to Spain to assist in embellishing and inaugurating his Theatre-Museum Dali.

As a closing celebration for the exhibition on Saturday, January 12, ONE will screen Arnold and collaborator Michael Wiese’s Messages, Messages (1968), for which they were invited to the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. The screening will be followed by a special preview of the upcoming feature-length documentary Steven Arnold’s Heavenly Bodies produced by artist and filmmaker Stephanie Farago, Creative Director of the Steven Arnold Archive. Many of Arnold’s films have received renewed critical attention, being recently shown at the Tate Modern, London; the Museum of the Moving Image, New York; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, among other recent venues.  This screening series will be the first time all of Arnold’s films have been shown in Los Angeles.

Arnold’s work was recently included in ONE’s Pacific Standard Time exhibition Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, a major, three-part showing of the archives’ extensive collections. With this exhibition, ONE is pleased to work with the Steven Arnold Archive to present Arnold’s work to the public with a greater depth and insight worthy of this visionary artist.

Steven Arnold: Cabinet of Curiosities will be on view at the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum from October 27, 2012 through January 13, 2013. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 27, from 5 to 8pm. See below for additional programs.

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