Articles | ArtSlant https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/show en-us 40 At LA Pride, Muse Durk Dehner Talks Tom of Finland’s Popular Resurgence <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">Meandering through West Hollywood&rsquo;s crowded streets&mdash;filled with trendy boutiques, coffee shops, and upscale salons&mdash;it&rsquo;s difficult to come across vestiges of the city&rsquo;s queer roots. Long gentrified by high rents is a rich history ensconced in leather bars, tea rooms, sex shops, and the like. It&rsquo;s a history that while obscured, is still vibrantly alive in the memory of Tom of Finland Foundation Co-founder, Durk Dehner. Since 1984, Dehner served as the official head of the organization meant to promote the work and aesthetic of Touko Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), the Finnish artist responsible for drawings and sketches of muscle-clad leather men that embody a pre-AIDS gay archetype.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/84518/3mfh/20160610044917-61.05_16x20_rgb.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></span></p> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 &ndash; 1991), <em>Untitled</em>,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>1961<strong>,</strong>&nbsp;Graphite on paper.Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation</span></div> <p style="line-height: 26px;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">Dehner first came across Tom of Finland&rsquo;s work in a New York leather bar. He was immediately captivated by the explicit imagery, fetishized depictions, and idealized renditions of the male form. It was something he&rsquo;d never seen before and the work pierced him in a way no other piece of art had. Though not shown at a traditional art venue, Dehner knew he was gazing upon the work of an artist keenly aware of, and able to capture, the social-sexual milieu of the era. He wrote Lakksonen a letter and soon enough the pair were sharing Dehner&rsquo;s Echo Park home. It was a complex relationship, built on friendship, collaboration, and mutual support, but also fraught with the unending tensions between artist and muse.</span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/84518/3mfh/20160610050204-durk-tom-2.jpg" alt="" width="700" /></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">(left) TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 &ndash; 1991), <em>Untitled</em>,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>1979<strong>,</strong>&nbsp;Graphite on paper. Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation</span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;"><br />(right) TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 &ndash; 1991), <em>Untitled</em>,</span><strong style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">1988</span><strong style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">,</strong><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;Graphite on paper. Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">For years after Lakksonen&rsquo;s death in 1991 the Tom of Finland name fell into obscurity, buried under the weight of the AIDS epidemic and its overwhelming effects on the libertine sexual atmosphere of the 1970s. The hedonistic days of consequent-free casual sex were over. In their place a more sanitized queer archetype took hold over the community.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">Yet, for the past several years his work has experienced a resurgence, especially among younger men who matured in a world where preventative medicines are readily available. With the stigma and fear of AIDS long gone, and mobile apps putting casual sex right at their fingertips, gay men are undergoing a sexual revolution. The old norms are out and new ones are established daily. For the Tom of Finland Foundation the artist&rsquo;s popular comeback translates into a wellspring of opportunities situating the practice in dialogues and spaces ranging from high art to kitsch. For the first time his work has been represented by major galleries and museums like MOCA-Los Angeles and New York&rsquo;s Artist Space. Simultaneously, the recognition also spawned a number of product collaborations from rugs, t-shirts, plates, linens, sex toys, <a href="http://www.artslant.com/ew/articles/show/39303" target="_blank">postage stamps</a>, and even coffee.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">Recently, they&rsquo;ve collaborated with LA Pride for the festival&rsquo;s art fair, entitled <em>Cruising</em>, curated by Nathaly Charria. While initial plans for the festival were met with a <a href="http://thepridela.com/2016/05/1640/" target="_blank">fair share of controversy</a> from the local community, the organizers are unperturbed in their mission to queer public space, an endeavor deeply tied to Tom of Finland&rsquo;s core guiding principles. On the eve of the festival I sat down with Dehner at the foundation&rsquo;s Echo Park home to get his perspective on how the organization, and the art it supports, sits in the ever shifting dynamics of contemporary gay life.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>Neil Vazquez: How did you first come across Tom&rsquo;s work? What initially drew you to his images?</strong></span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>Durk Dehner:</strong> I was 26, so I didn&rsquo;t grow up with his work. I moved to New York to become a part of the leather scene there and I won a contest at the Eagle&rsquo;s Nest. At the bar next door, Spike, I saw a little ad with Tom&rsquo;s work. I never had a piece of art affect me before, but I had a physical experience with it. I had to have it.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">I showed it to a friend of mine, who was also an artist, Dom Orejudos (aka Etienne) who was a contemporary of Tom&rsquo;s, and told me about him. [Dom] had Tom&rsquo;s address, and I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved his work. We stayed in contact and he would see my name and picture in different magazines like the <em>Saturday Evening Post</em> because I was modeling for Bruce Weber at the time. A year later I&rsquo;d moved back to LA and he wrote me letter telling me that he was coming to town for a show at one of the local gay-owned galleries. I hosted him on his first trip. That was 1977, and in 1981 after coming back and forth several times he moved here with me.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/84518/3mfh/20160610050532-89.02_16x20_GRAYSCALE.jpg" alt="" width="450" /></span></p> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 &ndash; 1991), <em>Untitled</em>,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>1989<strong>,</strong>&nbsp;Graphite on paper. Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation</span><span style="text-align: left;"><br /></span></div> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>NV: What role did you play in his career?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>DD:</strong> Immediately I realized what a big impact he would have on the community and how deeply he impacted their individual lives as gay men. I also saw how much he&rsquo;d been abused by publishers who would reprint and copy his work without permission. So I offered, as a friend, to help promote him in America and it evolved from there. In 1978, I got him an exhibition in New York were he met Warhol and Mapplethorpe.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>NV: How did Tom interact with the art establishment at the time?</strong></span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>DD:</strong> One of the things that Tom has been honored for is as an example for artists to hold their own. He stood up to the galleries and museums and said, &ldquo;This is what I&rsquo;m doing and I don&rsquo;t care.&rdquo; Back then galleries were hesitant to show erotic art. So, we made our own galleries where gay artists could show their work.</span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">More than anything Tom&rsquo;s work stood for freedom. That&rsquo;s the universal appeal. I was in Paris a couple of years ago for the opening of one of Tom&rsquo;s shows and there was this stylish woman at the entrance looking into the show and getting emotional. When I went up to her she told me, &ldquo;this man was truly free,&rdquo; and I completely agree with that.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;<img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/84518/3mfh/20160610050900-89.11_16x20_GRAYSCALE.jpg" alt="" width="450" /></span></p> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 &ndash; 1991), <em>Untitled</em>,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>1989<strong>,</strong>&nbsp;Graphite on paper. Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation</span><span style="text-align: left;"><br /></span></div> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</span></div> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</span></div> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>NV: What&rsquo;s the appeal of leather?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>DD:</strong> The pleasure of life is to present yourself in a different way, and see how people react to it. There are few things that evoke a certain sensuousness and mystique as much as leather. When you wear that hide you&rsquo;re put in a different state of mind. When you put on a pair of boots you walk differently. Even on that level it&rsquo;s one of life&rsquo;s pleasures. &nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">You wonder, though, if it will sustain itself. I was so surprised when I was in Europe a couple of months ago that black leather and jeans are in right now. It&rsquo;s super trendy again.</span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>NV: In a sense, it&rsquo;s sort of a drag of its own?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>DD: </strong>Well that&rsquo;s a touchy subject in the leather community. There&rsquo;s a difference between costume and gear. Costumes tend to be associated with parties, Halloween, and what not. Gear is something that is yours. If I give someone a vest or boots that belong to me, I&rsquo;m not just giving them a used piece of leather; it&rsquo;s an embodiment of everyone that&rsquo;s worn it. When one man gives gear to another man, you&rsquo;re getting something that has the energy of the person that came before you.</span>&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/84518/3mfh/20160610050704-87.13_16x20_GRAYSCALE.jpg" alt="" width="450" />&nbsp;</span></p> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 &ndash; 1991), <em>Untitled</em>,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>1987<strong>,</strong>&nbsp;Graphite on paper. Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation</span></div> <p style="line-height: 26px;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>NV: How did the AIDS epidemic shape Tom of Finland?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>DD: </strong>Before it we were freer than we are now in a sense. Now we have legal rights, but people are more hesitant to experiment and push boundaries. It&rsquo;s not just sexual&mdash;you see it in art. Artists don&rsquo;t make explicit pieces because they&rsquo;re afraid they can&rsquo;t sell them later on. It&rsquo;s more of a commercial censorship.</span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>NV: Do you think new medications, like Truvada, are somewhat responsible for a resurgence in Tom&rsquo;s popularity?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>DD: </strong>Yes, AIDS was a war and it happened. Everyone that survived it became very safe. Where we are now we don&rsquo;t need validation, we need to explore where the parameters are. But it&rsquo;s not just gay boys&mdash;Tom&rsquo;s work has a mass message and appeal. The thing about it is that sexy never goes out of style.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/448412-neil-vazquez?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Neil Vazquez</a></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">(Image at top:&nbsp;Tom of Finland and Durk Dehner. Photo: Jim Wigler)</span><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> Fri, 10 Jun 2016 04:33:37 -0400 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Intimate Strangers: In Conversation with Matthew Morrocco <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong><em>Berlin, Jul. 2014:</em></strong> Matthew Morrocco&rsquo;s &ldquo;Berlin Series&rdquo; depicts no-strings-attached encounters tied to the fabric of our most intimate human emotions. This tender photographic self-portrait series evokes the pleasure and pathos that can be embedded in online hook-ups. As a young New York artist studying in Berlin, Morrocco met older men and photographed them either alone or interacting with his nude body. He respectfully represents these men&rsquo;s aged bodies and evident desires. Presenting his subjects&rsquo; faded, slack skin as velvet, he invites them to pose languidly and the sensuality of his images gives dignity and emotional depth to customarily taboo or scorned encounters.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">Morrocco&rsquo;s soft use of light, delicate color palette, and his own graceful boyish beauty bring an uncanny sense of premature nostalgia to his images. Where Laurel Nakadate&rsquo;s self-portrait series taunting dejected older men is fueled by the contrast between her youth and sexiness and their evident sexual failure, Morocco&rsquo;s art is devoid of cruelty. In fact, the empathy evident in his work asks whether Morocco casts himself as the embodiment of these men&rsquo;s pasts, or whether he is peering ruefully into his own future.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">Related concerns reappear in Morrocco&rsquo;s other self-portrait series overtly referencing Francesca Woodman&rsquo;s work. Here, he pays homage to the artist whose work and brief biography are usually interpreted through feminist theory. But instead of making a statement about gender, the series&rsquo; focus is mortality. For his photographs, taken with the same dreamy perspective as his &ldquo;Berlin Series,&rdquo; Morrocco contorts his body and tests his physical boundaries. By referencing an artist who took her own life at the age Morrocco is now, he presents a life-affirming hope that he will endure into an old age that embraces young men as handsome and empathetic as he is today.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">Morrocco&rsquo;s work can be seen in August in a show presented by the residency <a href="http://www.pictureberlin.org/">Picture Berlin</a> and in a second show hosted by the artist platform, <a href="http://artistdock.org/">artistdock</a>.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20140707062852-Matthew_Morrocco_Shaun_With_Chair.jpg" alt="" /><br /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><span style="font-size: x-small;"><strong>Matthew Morrocco,</strong> <em>Shaun With Chair</em>; Courtesy of the artist</span><br /></span></p> <hr style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;" /> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Tell me about the identities of these men in your "Berlin Series"? How did you meet them and</strong><strong> how collaborative are the images?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> I mostly meet men online, on hookup apps. I&rsquo;m very shy. I like the barrier of the online profile&mdash;I&rsquo;m much more interesting online than I am in person. The whole thing feels more personal and private. We get to make up who we are and under those circumstances people reveal things about themselves that are more provocative. I&rsquo;m not necessarily trying to capture reality. I like it when people insist that the caricature they present is real life.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Your work is so intimate. In what contexts do you feel shy?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> In public, around authority figures that are too entitled. I especially hate heteronormative patriarchy but there&rsquo;s nothing worse than an officious homosexual.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Why did you title your series with older men as your "Berlin </strong><strong>Series"? How does this work relate to the city and your impressions of Berlin?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> The last time I was in Berlin I was reading Christopher Isherwood&rsquo;s <em>Berlin Stories</em>, so the title (I think more subconsciously than anything) comes from this. I see Isherwood as an important predecessor. In the pictures, I sought to honor history (political, personal, artistic). I wanted to experience and understand the combination of tense history and revelatory youthfulness that Berlin offers.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong><em>AFH: Do you feel Isherwood still represents Berlin? Personally, I do. But I wonder whether that connection is anachronistic.</em> </strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> No, I don&rsquo;t think it is anachronistic. Isherwood was describing a personal artistic journey in <em>The Berlin Stories</em>. Sally Bowles, for example, exists everywhere. She&rsquo;s not talented and never successful but she lives her life as if she&rsquo;s already famous. Isherwood lionizes rather than criticizes her. In Berlin there&rsquo;s a community that does the same. Isherwood&rsquo;s Berlin allowed him to build the life that he wanted, both in writing and in his real life. This kind of place will always exist as long as people exist, whether in New York or Berlin or anywhere. Berlin is a place where it is encouraged to get lost in the illusion of your constructed identity.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: How would this series be different in another city?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> It is really a matter of architecture. I have similar work from New York, for example, but the apartments are so much smaller that the work tends to be more psychological. There&rsquo;s less space to contextualize a person in an environment.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: I love that! It feel like a fantasy New Yorker, like a Woody Allen character, living my neurotic life in my gorgeous Berlin flat instead of a New York water-closet. What are the men&rsquo;s relationships with the city?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> It&rsquo;s just as much a safe haven for creative older men as it is for young people. But it varies by neighborhood. Men living in Prenzlauer Berg have a very different view than men living in Neuk&ouml;lln.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20140707063229-Matthew_Morrocco_Mark.jpg" alt="" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><strong>Matthew Morrocco</strong>,<em> Mark;</em> Courtesy of the artist</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Considering how unrepresentative most peoples&rsquo; photos are, do these men assume that you&rsquo;re not actually an attractive young man? Your genuine identity is most people&rsquo;s avatar. Do you find an imbalance in the illusions?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> No, mostly they assume I am attractive. I experiment with my self-image in order to make my work, but that&rsquo;s tricky. Looking back to Isherwood, the tragedy of Sally Bowles is that she never lets her illusion drop. She disappears inside it and never comes out. Only children are impressed by magic tricks. Adults are thrilled by sincerity cloaked in a magic trick&mdash;it&rsquo;s a fine balance.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Do you only have one online profile for each site? Have you ever created a persona far beyond a legitimate extension of your real identity?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> No, I&rsquo;m not really capable of that. Though, I do have a decently developed alias that will last me through a good ten minutes of conversation with someone I&rsquo;ve never met.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: When do you introduce this series into your conversations? What are the ranges of responses to your proposal?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> Usually right away. Otherwise people get the wrong idea. I don&rsquo;t mind duplicity, but I don&rsquo;t play games with the people I photograph. My relationships with these men are very important to me. Mostly, I get positive responses but some people refuse and stop talking to me.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: How much do you tell these men about yourself?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> I usually just say that I am a photographer and I&rsquo;d like to take their picture. I don&rsquo;t hide anything but I don&rsquo;t offer more than necessary unless they ask. I&rsquo;m very candid and upfront with them. If something unexpected happens during a shoot, it is unexpected for me too. </span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: What are the personality and psychological characteristics that your older male models share?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> I don&rsquo;t like to curate based on any particular kind of look or psychology. I want to photograph every day and sometimes it is just a matter of who is available. I&rsquo;ve photographed ex-politicians, artists, real-estate agents, heroin and meth users, men who came out in their 50s, men who are lonely, and men who have very fulfilled lives. All sorts of men, but they all have a common interest in me. The work is narcissistic in this way.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Have you refused to work with someone, perhaps because you felt he was too vulnerable or his motives were inappropriate?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> Never. I always take pictures. I react to what&rsquo;s going on no matter what. The most important rule for any artist is that the work comes first, despite consequences. Those must be dealt with appropriately afterward, however. It&rsquo;s a kind of civil disobedience.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20140707063616-Matthew_Morrocco_Scott.jpg" alt="" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><strong>Matthew Morrocco</strong>,<em> Mark;</em> Courtesy of the artist</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Do you think of yourself objectively as a handsome young man in your </strong><strong>work? Are you essentially objectifying yourself as part of your conceptual process?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> I&rsquo;ve never thought of myself as objectively handsome, but I am definitely always objectifying myself in the work. I use myself as a handsome boy trope to make a point about sexuality, intimacy, aging, and attractiveness. But I don&rsquo;t know what it&rsquo;s like to be objectively handsome and refuse to claim it as part of my identity.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Have you seen photographs of the men in this series when they were younger? Were they once as handsome as you are now?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> Seduction and attractiveness are really complicated. I&rsquo;ve photographed men who started out very &ldquo;attractive&rdquo; when they were young whose seduction scenes fall flat. I&rsquo;ve also photographed men who weren&rsquo;t &ldquo;attractive&rdquo; when they were young but can convince me to do anything with their elegant diction, the way they move their bodies, or compose themselves for photographs. One of my favorite men to photograph, Shaun, tells me that at fifty-one he is the most attractive he&rsquo;s ever felt. I think he was very handsome as a young man, but you can&rsquo;t convince someone they&rsquo;re attractive if they don&rsquo;t think they are.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: I actually think that handsome men have a much harder time aging than beautiful women. Culture assumes the opposite since men seem to physically age more gracefully but I&rsquo;ve noticed that many handsome men are unaware that they&rsquo;re treated differently than other men. When their beauty privilege wanes, they&rsquo;re confused and normal treatment seems unjust. In that context, it makes sense that men who were never beautiful would feel more attractive once their peers fade and they become accustomed to their looks.</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> I agree but I think it&rsquo;s more complicated than that. Beauty is a powerful tool but it is cultivated and subjective. The majority of people in the world are equally beautiful but attraction is complex and socially coded. It&rsquo;s a misconception that some people are naturally more attractive than others. Only sociopaths see attractiveness as a form of capital.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: That is an interesting and very nice interpretation. How does using your body as an element in your work affect your</strong><strong> perception of your appearance?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> I have no real capital to start an art career. I can&rsquo;t pay these men. I have to use my body and charm as a form of currency, which is fun at times, and difficult at others&mdash;I tend to feel a bit like a sex worker. When one photographs, one is seducing, sexually and otherwise. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s much different than seducing someone in a bar. Success or failure in life and art is always based on someone else&rsquo;s opinion.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Have you ever felt unsafe?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> Yes, all the time. When I&rsquo;m offered a glass of water I wonder if there&rsquo;s something dangerous in it. Sometimes people will bring over meth, or get too aggressive sexually. But I&rsquo;ve found that most people are very respectful.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>AFH: Bring water, kiddo! On a less worrying note, what about the aesthetic aspects of your work? You use soft, ideal, and very romantic lighting. What does this indicate in your work?</strong></span></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>MM:</strong> Accepting the glass of water is important, though! When I photograph someone we have to trust each other. Otherwise there&rsquo;s no magic, no good photograph. I want the images to feel like sex on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Nice light means beautiful pictures. There&rsquo;s power in beauty.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&mdash;<span style="color: #ec124f;"><a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/52794-ana-finel-honigman?tab=REVIEWS"><span style="color: #ec124f;">Ana Finel Honigman</span></a></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><em>ArtSlant would like to thank Matthew Morrocco for his assistance in making this interview possible.</em></span></p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 07:32:20 -0400 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list As Art and Magic: An Interview with Elijah Burgher <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><em><strong>New York, Mar. 2014:</strong></em> Elijah Burgher and I were at Sarah Lawrence College together. I remember sitting outside the cafeteria when someone asked for the definition of the word &ldquo;puckish.&rdquo; With Katharine Hepburn cool, Melissa Bent, later the founder of Rivington Arms Gallery, instantly replied: &ldquo;Elijah.&rdquo;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">I use &ldquo;puckish&rdquo; often and I always envision Elijah&rsquo;s playful sexual spirit crouching over the word. Even if he weren&rsquo;t part of my vocabulary, he&rsquo;s been part of my home since college. When we were seniors taking an art class together, I admired a large painting he was making and he gave it to me. Its been hanging in every home where I&rsquo;ve lived since. It is now over the sofa where I work in my Berlin apartment. More macabre than his mature work, this painting is my enduring symbol for &ldquo;home.&rdquo; </span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">In the meantime, the artist himself moved to Chicago and we lost contact until I heard that he was included in the upcoming Whitney Biennial, and I invited him to engage in this dialogue. Elijah has developed an artistic universe populated by rugged naked men in their twenties or thirties and canvases consisting of color-blocks and strange symbols. Cast against strong colors and clearly drawn with a passionate hand, these occult signs appear potent &ndash; hopefully as Wiccan signage not Black Magic. But I get that the spells they cast are at least a bit mischievous&hellip;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20140302105210-1506024_10100724795536099_1275092333_n.jpg" alt="" /><br /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><em>Photo of the author's living room;</em> Courtesy Ana Finel Honigman.</span></p> <hr style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;" /> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">Ana Finel Honigman: Who are the men in your work and what are their relationships with their settings?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>Elijah Burgher:</strong> The men are based on the likenesses of friends, lovers, and heroes, as well as my own. It's important to me that the source be my life &ndash; my loves and enthusiasms, my investments &ndash; but I do not usually think of them as portraits. By stripping the figures of their clothes, and placing them in spaces that combine the real (my apartment and studio, usually) and the imagined (the symbols inscribed on the walls), the depicted situations become more mythological &ndash; fictions, at the very least, pieced together from my daily life and the fantasies born there.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: How has placing these men in your paintings affected your relationships with them?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> There are certainly more esoteric reasons for choosing a particular person to portray. I once made a drawing of a boy that I had a huge crush on. My wish, or wager, whichever, was that the drawing would be so beautiful as to make him fall in love with me. That spell backfired, but not so much because it didn't work. It actually worked a little too well. That was an extreme case, but I do find that drawing someone can result in increased intimacy. On the other hand, I have done quite a few break-up drawings, the point of which was to unbind an attachment that had grown poisonous or whatever. Those have always worked.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Combining your intimates and idols sounds like Elizabeth Peyton's way of incorporating her friends into an oeuvre primarily dedicated to celebrities. What do you think of her work and how she does that? Is it a similar pantheon for you?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> I quite liked some of her paintings and drawings when I was younger and searching for folks who were using the figure in ways that weren't entirely backward looking. I still enjoy the sweetness in her work, the visible crushing, the red lips. I relate to that impulse to draw someone that you find beautiful or admire, and do it not only well &ndash; to capture a likeness, an essence even &ndash; but also [with] the surge of feeling one experiences for that individual. But I am colder and also slower &ndash; maybe more attuned to the rhythms of control and submission that rumble within love and lust. And my subjects generally relate to particular subcultures &ndash; countercultural, queer, occult, combinations of the three &ndash; that are less known, less tuned into celebrity and pop culture, than her depictions of Kurt Cobain and the Oasis dude, for instance.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Where is the figure going in your work? How is your focus in painting shifting?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> Oh, god, Ana, I don't know! Sometimes, I think that I could do this &ndash; use these materials, deal with this subject matter &ndash; for the rest of my life. I have trouble projecting too far into the future. One picture grows out of the last one. On the other hand, I have reached a point where I do not think I can go any larger with the drawings without the total image subsuming the mark, which would result in a totally conventional kind of naturalism. Honestly, I've lately been fantasizing about packing up my pencils and teaching myself something like egg tempera, something really technical and "faggy." There are still problems, though, that nag at me, so an abrupt shift may not be right around the corner. The large paintings on canvas drop cloths are another story, though. I started making those in earnest about two years ago, and they are still very raw and undecided for me. Are they paintings or drawings or both or neither? Are they false walls? Tapestries? What do I do with them? Put them on the floor? Partition spaces? Make a maze?</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Speaking of "faggy," is there a gay aesthetic tradition that you're particularly engaging in your work? Is there a gay aesthetic? When I think of gay art, I think of minimalism mixed with hardcore&nbsp;&ndash; like Elmgreen &amp; Dragset, Terence Koh, Amir Fattal. In my mind, it&rsquo;s like translating the efficiency of a dark room into a cleanly compartmentalised art-work. But your work is definitely not engaging with minimalism. How does your identity influence your technique, not just your subject matter, if it does?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> By "faggy," I was somewhat facetiously referring to a cluster of qualities I associate with egg tempera: it is precious, sort of antique, "technical." I associate the medium with Paul Cadmus! The question of whether my art is gay or queer, though... I go back and forth about that, almost on a daily basis, really &ndash; whether to call it (and myself) gay, queer, homosexual, or ...? I've been looking at a lot of gay lib stuff from the 70s, when the identity and the culture were in a spasm of birth, and envy the excited, protean quality of that work. I'm thinking of what was happening in film with James Bidgood, Curt McDowell, and Fred Halsted, but also in writing: Foucault on fisting, Guy Hocquenghem discussing whether gay men and lesbians should be fucking one another, Tony Duvert on children's sexuality. There's a real sense of invention in these examples: invention of culture, self, new lives, new forms, images not yet perceived. I am way more thrilled by my nostalgia for that period of artistic and intellectual experimentation than I am by the current vogue for queer abstraction and its prohibition of portraying actual subjects and objects of desire. Ultimately, though, the experience of desire is more pertinent to my technique than identity is.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20140302110416-ex_phi_ill1.jpg" alt="" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="color: #525552;"><strong>Elijah Burgher, </strong><em>Excremental Philosophy Illustrated, Vol. 1,</em> Colored pencil on paper, 19x24", 2013; Courtesy of the artist.</span> <em><strong><span style="color: #525552;"><br /></span></strong></em></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: I've never forgotten when we saw Sensation together at the Brooklyn Museum and you looked at the Chapman Brother's edenic orgy and said, with pure appreciation, "I want to fuck that." That line actually influenced my whole relationship with art. However abstract that motive might feel in the context, that's my criteria when looking at art. Do I? That seems to be the content for many of your works too. The meeting of sexual desire, desire to possess, and art. What does that drive mean to you now?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> I don't know that I'd say that anymore about a work by the Chapman Brothers. I definitely think about the relationship between desire and visual art (both the making and the looking). As subject matter as well as a conceptual problem, I return constantly to desire. Lately, I've been attuned to how my materials and technique relate to desire in terms of failed mastery, and how that becomes a veil or layer through which the subject is perceived. Leo Bersani's writings have been really important to me in this regard. In addition to the examples from the 70s listed above, I've been looking at other artists that make work explicitly about sexual desire &ndash; Richard Hawkins, Dorothy Iannone, Monica Majoli, some of Maria Lassnig's paintings &ndash; and thinking about how art and pornography might come together and make philosophy, to put it pretty stupidly.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Explain that...why philosophy? What do you mean by philosophy there?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> A couple of things: that the artist thinks otherwise about both desire (or sexuality, libidinal energy, pornography) and art through the act of putting the two together, perceiving one through the frame of the other. Also, simply that good artworks not only embody ideas but are gambits for conversation, debate, and hopefully new thoughts and insights.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Tell me about working in Chicago. Why did you settle there and what does being based there mean for your work?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> I moved here in 2001 to attend graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I wanted to get out of NY, away from family and friends and things I knew. (Also, Chicago had a wonderful neo-no wave scene in the late 90s, so I'd imagined it must be a great place.) I stuck around after receiving my MFA for idealistic reasons, out of a sense that Chicago's peripheral status enabled artistic experiment &ndash; not only with objects, but also discourse and community. I can't say that idealism survived, but two things have kept me here: my ability to make ends meet while being relatively full-time in my studio, and my friendships with Doug Ischar and John Neff, two artists I greatly admire.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Are most of your collectors local? There is such an intense critical interest in America, its meanings and influence, throughout the world but it seems like most foreign collectors still gravitate to NYC, which only represents a very distorted image of America. Are you attracting collectors who want to relate to American art in America proper?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> There are a handful of collectors in Chicago and elsewhere in the States who have taken an interest in my work. A lot of really crucial support, though, came to me earlier in the form of older artists. Kevin Killian, who is based in San Francisco, commissioned a piece and brought me out to the West Coast for a solo show at <a href="http://www.artslant.com/sf/venues/show/1455-2nd-floor-projects">2nd Floor Projects</a> a couple of years ago. And AA Bronson bought a couple of drawings during some difficult times. Actually, the ways in which both Kevin and AA have been encouraging are too numerous to list here, not the least of which is their example of integrity as artists.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20140302105656-6_organs.jpg" alt="" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552; font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>Elijah Burgher,</strong><em> "6 organs" ritual,</em> Colored pencil on paper, 11x14", 2013; Courtesy of the artist.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: The symbols in your work allude to the occult. Can you walk me through the symbology?&nbsp;</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> The symbols are sigils, graphic emblems to which magical power is imputed. I generally use a system for creating the forms that was developed by Austin Osman Spare, an early 20th century British artist and occultist. Basically, one takes the letters spelling out a wish or desire and recombines them into a new, easily remembered form, which is then charged by visualizing it during a "no-mind" experience, i.e. peak fear, orgasm, etc. I became aware of Spare's system through the Temple of Psychic Youth, and was interested especially in the explicit connection drawn between abstraction, wishfulness and sexuality.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: Do your works co-exist as art and magic?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> The works do co-exist as art and magic, like most artworks of any merit.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: It&rsquo;s interesting about Spare. He is much less known than Aleister Crowley. What do you think that says about the world and its priorities? Or our desires to understand and interrelate with history, especially elements of history that philosophically address the future?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> Crowley was like the Claude Levi-Strauss of the occult, a high modernist who attempted a universal table of correspondences with which to unify esoteric knowledge from all space and time. Spare, on the other hand, was a proto-postmodernist, insofar as he modeled an individualistic path based on intuition and experiment. His influence really began to be felt through Chaos Magick &ndash; a moniker for a motley group of occultists in the 70s and 80s, whose magical pursuits reflected the influence of both punk&rsquo;s nihilism and anti-establishment ethos.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><em><strong><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">AFH: When viewers approach your work, do you recommend that they engage it intellectually or emotionally? Is it a form of healing?</span></strong></em></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><strong>EB:</strong> I hope that the work engages both head and heart, as well as perhaps more prurient parts of the human body. Seriously, though, I think it's the difficult job of art to bring thought and feeling into alignment: to think feelings (or sensations) and feel thoughts. This is what I was getting at earlier by using the term "philosophy" in relation to the aesthetic and the libidinal. I reject both positions staked on anti-intellectualism and those that are anti-beauty or anti-pleasure.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/52794-ana-finel-honigman?tab=REVIEWS">Ana Finel Honigman</a>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><em>ArtSlant would like to thank Elijah Burgher for his assistance in making this interview possible.</em></span></p> Sun, 02 Mar 2014 21:13:53 -0300 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list The Benefits of Pencil Hard-Ons <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">It's a rare situation, I'd guess, in which a reviewer is faced with the prospect of writing five hundred words of description and extrapolation about a series of pornographic sketches, but nevertheless, here we are. In the interests of full disclosure, I believe that I have been assigned this Tom of Finland show as a subject because of my &ldquo;relevant experience&rdquo;: while not as qualified as a&nbsp;<em>bona fide</em>&nbsp;homosexual man (pun intended, in this context), I can confidently say that I know my Bears from my Otters, for instance; that I live, at present with three gay men; and that when I moved to the city, I cut my teeth in its various drag clubs and camp Soho bars.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">(One of my housemates, in fact, was suitably outraged that I did not ask him for a quote for this review. He has a point, I suppose &ndash; one is supposed to write what one knows, after all.)</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20130731130853-OO.jpeg" alt="" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><strong>Tom of Finland</strong>, <em>Untitled</em>, 1976, dated, signed graphite on paper, 29.8 x 41.6 cm; Copyright Tom of Finland &reg; Foundation.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">The new townhouse location of Stuart Shave Modern Art, anyway&nbsp;&ndash; in Fitzroy Square &ndash; has that all important &ldquo;come up and see my etchings&rdquo; arrangement down pat, being as it is a discreet affair, accessible only by buzzer, and up a flight of stairs which require the assistant to usher you in. I have certainly been in more compromising situations than this one, but somehow, I felt like an absolute pervert. I'd say it's a thrilling activity for a July afternoon: a pleasing titbit of subversion in the eye of the West End's money-dulled storm, where one can stand and think of &ldquo;alcohol and cock and endless balls&rdquo; with impunity &ndash; had Ginsberg thought to replace the liquor with assholes in his mantra, he might have formed a succinct review of what I saw in those two upstairs rooms.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">The hand behind the sketches, of course, is Touko Laaksonen, better-known by his iconic sobriquet, Tom of Finland. The characters in Laaksonen's drawings are so familiar to us now that they appear, to some degree, like filthier versions of Carry-On seaside postcards: cheeky remnants of an erotic stone age, which has been appropriated frequently enough &ndash; and with enough campy humour&nbsp;&ndash; that it no longer shocks. What was revolutionary about these drawings, however, was the fact that their participants did not seem troubled by their &ldquo;deviant&rdquo; sexuality, at all &ndash; that the men were depicted as gleeful, willing and sometimes tender participants in the graphic sexual acts therein. "I work very hard,&rdquo; the artist explained, &ldquo;to make sure that the men I draw having sex are proud men having happy sex."&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20130731131017-0.jpg" alt="" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><strong>Tom of Finland,</strong> <em>Untitled</em>, 1987, dated, signed graphite on paper, 29.2 x 21.6 cm;&nbsp; Copyright Tom of Finland &reg; Foundation.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">This is the first solo Tom of Finland exhibition in the UK, I believe &ndash; there are another glut of his drawings currently showing at the ICA, in its&nbsp;<em>Keep Your Timber Limber</em>&nbsp;show. There is little to say of the content &ndash; veiny, glutear, wild &ndash; which hasn't been written already, although the delicacy of these preliminary pieces is truly remarkable; the carefulness and the softness is surprising, and delightful in its incongruity. If you feel as though you'd benefit from some close-quarters scrutiny of beautifully rendered pencil hard-ons, it runs until August 10th.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/265136-philippa-snow?tab=REVIEWS">Philippa Snow</a></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;">(Image on top: <strong>Tom of Finland</strong>, <em> Untitled , </em>c. 1963, undated, unsigned graphite on paper, 21 x 15 cm; Copyright Tom of Finland &reg; Foundation.)</span></p> Wed, 31 Jul 2013 13:29:07 -0400 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list A Transformation Incomplete <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">The Schwules Museum is a critically important institution. It was the first museum in the world dedicated to the promotion and exhibition of LGBT-related art and artifacts. It holds an extensive archive of photographs, videos, films, sound recordings, autographs, art works, and ephemera dating back to 1896, much of which plays an invaluable role in the researching and documentation of queer history in Germany and abroad. Its necessity as a bastion of visibility in today’s increasingly heated political environment is undeniable, and its recent move from the Mehringdamm in Kreuzberg to a brand new facility in Berlin’s Tiergarten district promised to provide the Museum with an expanded platform for discourse and dialogue.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">I was excited to attend the re-opening party, held on an especially brisk spring evening in mid-May. The festivities began with a languid cocktail gathering under a cropping of linden trees in a park across the street. Drag queens mingled with suits-and-ties while young boys in tight jeans lounged in the grass sipping white wine spritzers. Inside a small building at the center of the park, Klaus Wowereit, the Mayor of Berlin, spoke to a room full of VIPs while the rest of us watched on a projection screen in the adjacent room.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">I was anxious to see the inaugural exhibition and before I knew it a grand procession led by a man in a bedazzled suit and a befeathered headdress drew the audience across the street as the new museum opened its doors. It was a sight to behold as the sun set on Lützowstraße: the street was filled with queers of all colors and sizes and various forms of fashion. I was anticipating an exhibition reflecting this crowd. I was anticipating a marker of diversity showcasing what queer life in Berlin has become and the potential of what it can be. I was sorely mistaken in my anticipations.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20130612165516-Frau_mit_Bart.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"></p> <p><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><i>Transformation</i>, Unknown Studio: Bearded Woman, photo, around 1890; ©Schwules Museum</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"> </span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">Before I begin my critique, I should mention that the new exhibition hall is gorgeous. It is spacious and airy with a comfortable café to promote conversation and numerous rooms which, if utilized properly, can display multiple and dynamic themed exhibitions simultaneously. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the grand re-opening exhibition, aptly titled <i>Transformation</i>. As I perused the various galleries one thought kept undermining my enjoyment: I was distracted by the lack of diversity, the lack of originality, and the blatant lack of representations for people of color and female or transgendered identified bodies. This was an exhibition for, by, and about white gay men. At times it felt as if I was walking through a hallway of repeatedly similar images of bearded Caucasian males holding hands or embracing. This is 2013. This dialogue is tired. New voices and bodies need to be seen and need to be heard.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">In terms of execution: overhung. The works were cramped and on top of each other, without space to breathe. It was difficult to contemplate the importance of one work of art without being distracted by the next. The most recognizable piece in the collection, <i>Chance Meeting</i> by American conceptual photographer Duane Michals, was shoved in a back corner and poorly lit. The hanging had no flow, no fluid connection between different sections. In the museum’s defense, the holdings of the archive are comparatively large given the subject matter and the need to showcase a broad selection is obviously paramount for the institution’s curators. As a plus, there was specific attention placed on a historical representation of artifacts from Germany and Western Europe that proved to be informative and entertaining. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"><img src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/3215/4yn/20130612165626-SMU_TobiasWille_Transformation.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"></p> <p><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;"><i> </i><i>Transformation</i>, Exhibition View, © Schwules Museum, Berlin; Photo: Tobias Wille.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"> </span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;">Overall the evening was enjoyable, but the exhibition was unfortunately not. I will not hold this against the Schwules Museum, of course, because I believe in its mission and trust that it will adapt to the changing cultural landscape of queer identity. Hopefully, it can use this misstep as a springboard for future exhibitions, ones that can showcase our diversity, rather than our assimilation. <br /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #525552; font-size: medium;"> </span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #525552; font-size: medium;"></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium;">—<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/151715-parker-tilghman?tab=REVIEWS">Parker Tilghman</a></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: medium; color: #525552;"> </span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: x-small; color: #525552;">(Image on top: <i>Transformation</i>, Unkown artist: <i>self-portrait, </i>around 1830; © Schwules Museum.)</span></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 16:57:02 -0400 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Absence in Abstraction <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;">Embroiled in controversy—it's what you’d expect from an exhibition about gay portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.  In fact, it’s rather surprising that the controversy didn’t arise until a month after the show was open—just in time for World AIDS Day.  On November 30th, the <a href="http://www.catholicleague.org/release.php?id=2033">Catholic League </a>complained about David Wojnarowicz's 1987 video piece <em>Fire in My Belly</em>, a “vile video” that could be interpreted as nothing more than an attack on Christianity, all because of a section of the video showing a cheap crucifix with ants walking on it.  Immediately House Republicans John Boehner and Eric Cantor <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/30/AR2010113004647.html">chimed in</a>, smugly calling into question the public funding for National Portrait Gallery—a part of the Smithsonian Institution and one of the most venerated museums of our country. The NPG caved to the political pressure and removed the video, not wishing for it to detract from the exhibition as a whole.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;">Wojnarowicz’ work is no stranger to political controversy and censorship.  He was one of the main actors in the Culture Wars of the late 80s and 90s, at a time when conservative representatives felt compelled to share their limited interpretations of what constitutes “art” on the House floor.  It proved a dangerous precedent, and in one sense I understand the museum’s desire to keep the torches and pitchforks as far away from the art as possible.  But the show itself is a foray into a realm that some people, inevitably, will find objectionable.  It’s a very brave exhibit; some circles would deem it overdue, while others would scoff or prefer to cover their eyes and keep pretending “it” doesn’t exist.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;"><img src="/userimages/1538/20101204144302-Screen_shot_2010-12-04_at_5.42.07_PM.png" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;">An incredible amount of scholarship went into the show, and the choices made by the curators were judicious and well-chosen.  Featuring works by Andy Warhol, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, even Thomas Eakins and Georgia O’Keeffe, the show isn’t predicated on whether the artist or the subject was gay or lesbian, but explores the changing face of portraiture through the lens of difference.  There are also some very moving pieces by lesser-known artists, like AA Bronson, whose portrait of his lover Felix shortly after his death from AIDs presents one of the most candid and powerful moments of the show.  Taken from a photo of a severely wasted Felix lying amongst the colorful fabrics of his deathbed, it’s an enormous piece, but the work is hidden behind a wall, in a section at the back of the exhibit.  The curators here force an intimate viewing of the piece—a poignant choice.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;"><img src="/userimages/1538/20101204144453-Screen_shot_2010-12-04_at_5.43.58_PM.png" />`</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;">Many of the art objects convey queerness only in a coded fashion, hidden behind abstraction and symbols. One of the most compelling arguments put forth by the exhibition’s curators is that modernist abstraction was one way to sublimate gay desire in painting, as in Marsden Hartley’s <em>Painting No. 47</em>, a composite portrait of a German soldier he was in love with, comprised only of symbols and badges.  In fact the human form is often missing in these portraits, the most powerful works depicting the absence of the lover, showing instead metonymic stand-ins for romantic attachments, symbols in place for actual desire. Jasper Johns’ and Robert Rauschenberg’s abstracted works stand in a quiet but intense conversation with each other.  Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ <em>Untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA)</em>, slowly shrinks as each visitor takes a piece from the pile of candy.  Sometimes significance is measured in what is absent, rather than by what is shown.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;"><img src="/userimages/1538/20101204144533-Screen_shot_2010-12-04_at_5.43.45_PM.png" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;">So perhaps there is something to be said for the absence of Wojnarowicz’ video.  We’ve taken an important step in recognizing the cultural contributions of gays and lesbians in America, but the fight is obviously not over yet.  Please go see this show, or visit <a href="http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/hideseek/index.html">the exhibition online</a> to read some of the valuable insight of the curators.  And also, write to your Congressperson and inform them that art is a form of discourse, and should not be censored, otherwise one risks the stultification of culture.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: medium;"> --Natalie Hegert</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: small;">(*Images: Berenice Abbott, <em>Janet Flanner</em>, 1927, photographic print, 23 x 17.3 cm (9 1/16 x 6 13/16"), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., © Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd., Inc.</span><br /><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: small;">Jasper Johns, <em>In Memory of My Feelings - Frank O'Hara</em>, 1961, oil on canvas with objects, 102.2 x 152.4 x 7.3 cm (40 1/4 x 60/ 2 7/8"), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.</span><br /><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: small;">AA Bronson, <em>Felix, June 5, 1994</em>, 1994 (printed 1999(, lacquer on vinyl, 213.4 x 426.7 cm (84 x 168"), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, © AA Bronson, 1994.</span><br /><span style="font-family: times new roman,times; font-size: small;">Felix Gonzalez-Torres, <em>"Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.)</em>, 1991, candies, individually wrapped in multicolored cellophane (endless supply) ideal weith 175, 91.4 x 91.4 x 91.4 cm ( 36 x 36 x 36") (apporx. dimensions variable), Collection Donna and Howard Stone, on extended loan to the Art Institute of Chicago, © Felix Gonzalez Torres Foundation, Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.)</span></p> Mon, 13 Dec 2010 21:57:51 -0300 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list