GAYLETTERGAYLETTER

Friday 05.17.19

10 Polaroids from Tom Bianchi’s time in New York City

Featured in his latest book, 63 E 9th Street: NYC Polaroids 1975–1983

I was about 25 when I discovered that a walk down Christopher Street in Manhattan was as cruisy as a walk down the beach in the Pines. In the early 1970s, as my generation was coming out loud and proud, the cityscape provided a fresh venue for our frequently manic celebration.

 

 

Most of us came from a sexually repressed, homophobic place — a place America was and, too often, still is. But New York’s streets, bars and clubs provided a safe space for us to connect with like-minded libido-driven souls. Day or night, my Ninth Street apartment existed as a stage designed for play. We created ourselves as one another’s fantasies.

 

 

Anxious as we were to get into each other’s pants, we remained ever vigilant for the guy we hoped might return our gaze. And these were paradoxical years. We were militant young men outside, fragile boys inside. But from time to time — for a while, at least — we found love in each other’s arms. That’s why I always kept fresh flowers about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to get the book 63 E 9th Street: NYC Polaroids 1975–1983.

 

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Tuesday 05.14.19

Art After Stonewall

50 years ago this June, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the New York Police Department, triggering one of the largest confrontations in LGBTQ history. Since that night, many battles, like marriage equality and the HIV/AIDs crisis have been fought. We’ve had big wins and realized some worrying losses. Reflecting on Stonewall allows us, of course, to celebrate our victories, but also inspires us to press on and keep fighting for those in our community that still face intense social and political marginalization. Jonathan Weinberg has published Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989, a book focused on the legacy of Stonewall that highlights more than 200 artworks “spanning the two decades between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis.” Among the many featured artists are Alvin Baltrop, Cathy Cade, Gran Fury, Nan Goldin, Harmony Hammond, Lyle Ashton Harris, Tseng Kwong Chi, Peter Hujar, Greer Lankton, Mcdermott & Mcgough, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, Adam Rolston, Shelley Seccombe, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and many more.

 

 

The book is pretty badass. Chapter Two (Sexual Outlaws) opens with Catherine Opie’s photograph, Raven (Gun); a woman sits bare-chested on a couch, her nipple piercings connected by a silver chain. Arms stretched out, she aims a gun into the distance. On the adjacent page a quote by Flavia Rando reads, “We knew there were lesbian bars in Greenwich Village, but the mob bouncers could prevent women from entering. You could be judged too black, too brown, too young, too poor, or the police might raid and you could be arrested for wearing the wrong garments.” Later in the chapter, Lynda BenglisArtforum Advertisement from 1974 is shown. …

Thursday 04.25.19

LOUIS FRATINO: “COME SOFTLY TO ME”

New paintings celebrate gay sex and reimagine birth.

Louis Fratino has an informal, homoerotic Instagram account @boy.drawings where he posts figure studies. His fans, both critics and pedestrians alike can see his technical drafting and beautifully rendered cocks. It’s the best of both worlds. Writing for the New York Times in 2017, legend Roberta Smith said Fratino’s work is “hot with painterly attention and erudition.” On my stop in to “Come Softly To Me,” his first solo show with Sikkema Jenkins & Co., I overheard a gay man (serving as cultural attaché) telling his friends from out of town, “It’s a gay show. That’s why I like it!”

 

“Come Softly To Me” offers 25 new paintings that vary in scale and oscillate between modernist figure paintings and progressive celebrations of the male form. Progressive because the men in the paintings are clearly gay. Fratino’s subjects are comfortable in their own skin, unafraid of being seen. When coupled, they entice his viewer into a languid world free of judgement, and he uses intimacy, lovers, family, and friends to “present the human figure as a site of vast emotive expression.” He has said that his paintings are an attempt to make himself vulnerable and able to speak about his own life honestly. Pairing the modernist approach to personalized subject matter directly links Fratino to the show-stopping stylists of today like Dana Schutz and Nicole Eisenman. Respectively, the two painters have helped re-situate American painting by forging new paths that Fratino now grazes on.

 

Out of the several large scale paintings on exhibit, “I keep treasure in my ass” and “Kissing Couple” are likely to get the most air time. …

Friday 03.29.19

James Bidgood: Reveries

James Bidgood moved to Manhattan in the 1950s and began taking his colorful, dream-like photos of men in his cramped Hell’s Kitchen apartment. The Museum of Sex’s new exhibition, James Bidgood: Reveries curated by Lissa Rivera, explores the artist’s unbelievable photographs. There was nothing quite like his work at the time; ornate nudes and semi-nudes taken with props and backdrops to give the illusion of a photograph taken underwater, in Paris, or in some other dream landscape. The creativity in Bidgood’s work is stunning. In my favorite photograph of his, Lobster, a model wears a sparkling seashell thong and holds two lobsters in his hands. The camera points up toward his crotch and face; the model’s body and hair are glimmering, and you can see stars in the night sky above him. The photograph is from Bidgood’s photography series, Water Colors, which was his first attempt at erotic photography.

 

Also on view from Water Colors, is Trunk, which depicts a man effortlessly floating in the ocean near a treasure chest. Bidgood went through an elaborate process to create this scene, covering model Jay Garvin’s body with “mineral oil, glitter, sequins, and small seashells. To create the illusion of weightlessness, Bidgood balanced Garvin on a foam-padded-café-table pedestal, hidden behind his leg through forced perspective.” Bidgood was formally trained at Parsons School of Design, and spent years designing gowns for wealthy New Yorkers, most notably for the annual Mardis Gras Ball of the Junior League. Little did the society girls know, after designing their gowns Bidgood would take the dresses apart and use them as costumes and set design pieces for his photographs. …

Tuesday 03.12.19

Fire: A Little Piece of Fire Island

I’ve never been to Fire Island, but I’ve heard about it. Stories about a gay paradise: parties, sex, drugs, the Meatrack… A place for fun and friends where you can be yourself and not worry about what anyone else has to say about it. Ryan McNamara has curated the work of 17 queer artists into an exhibition simply entitled Fire. It captures the experience of Fire Island. Littered on the floor are fliers for DWORLD Underwear Parties that read “The pool is open at 2:00AM for a skinny dip!” and “NYC’s hottest Go-Go.” In the center of the space is a sculpture of a squatting boy called “Boy’s Tears” by Cajsa von Zeipel. It’s surrounded by sand, towels, flip-flops, and deflated beach balls. An empty bag hangs on the wall. Scribbled on the front of it in marker is the description, “K8’s Jockstrap Collection Bag. Do it for fashion!” Next to the bag, K8 Hardy fitted several jockstraps onto a fiberglass mannequin. A wood and plaster creation (“Chemical Compound”) by Ryan McNamara depicts countless faceless figures kissing, sucking, and fucking in the biggest orgy I’ve ever seen.

 

 

Walking through the exhibition is exciting, it’s like walking through the remnants of a wild beach party that just ended an hour ago. I felt like dropping everything and going to Fire Island to experience the inside-jokes, and the community that seemed to be all about acceptance and having a good time. In organizing Fire, Ryan McNamara makes a statement about the importance of queer spaces. …

Wednesday 01.23.19

Andy Warhol: By Hand, Drawings from 1950s-1980s

In 1982, Andy Warhol, and several other artists, established the New York Academy of Art, a school focused on traditional education in drawing, painting, and sculpture. Warhol provided funding as well as creative input, and now, more than three decades after his death the academy has put together a new exhibit. Andy Warhol: By Hand, Drawings from 1950s-1980s features drawings and sketches from throughout Andy’s life. Over 150 drawings will be on view — many of them never before exhibited in the United States.

 

Among many artworks, there are male nudes, which were drawn in the 1950s and never meant for publication or exhibition. It was illegal to distribute that kind of content back then, so the sketches were used just for Warhol’s studies — men laying naked on their backs, depictions of penises, butts. Also on view are sketches for a “Boy Book,” a study of the male face and figure, which was never completed. Andy drew his male friends, but gave them long eyelashes and added little hearts to some of the portraits. There’s a subtle femininity to these men that helps them appear boyish. Separate from those sketches are a collection of male portraits. Men with their bodies relaxed, their legs spread, often shirtless.

 

A founder of the Andy Warhol foundation, co-curator of this exhibition, and longtime friend of Warhol, Vincent Fremont explains, “It is important for people to know the vital role drawing played in Andy Warhol’s life as an artist. By focusing only on Andy’s drawings, this exhibition is a way to highlight without distraction Andy’s innovative process and experimentation which encompassed pen and ink, ballpoint pen, blotted line, graphite, and acrylic paint.” It is well known that Andy sketched in the beginning of his career, but, as this exhibit makes clear, Andy continued to sketch throughout his life. …

Friday 12.21.18

Polaroids from Miami Beach Art Basel 2018

With Michèle Lamy, Chloe Sevigny, Raul de Nieves, Miles Greenberg, Misha Kahn, Scooter Laforge, BasicaTV, Brandon Boyd, De Se, Matthew Morrocco, Casey Spooner and many more...

Wednesday 12.19.18

SLAVA MOGUTIN: XXX FILES

The latest exhibition of special edition prints exclusively at Tom of Finland Store

The Tom of Finland Store is equal parts online boutique and gay art gallery. We’ve seen exhibitions of work by Bruce LaBruce, Jack Pierson, Daniel Trese and now their latest — a collection of special edition prints by the artist Slava Mogutin (titled Slava Mogutin: XXX Files) exclusively available on their site. The online exhibition launched in December 18th, a day after Tumblr decided to ban adult content. It’s one of the dumbest thing we’ve heard about this year, wasn’t pornography the only reason why people went on Tumblr in the first place? Our GAYLETTER XXX Tumblr got closed down after a few successful years and a massive following, but you know what, who cares, it’s time we all leave Tumblr and show them that we don’t need to support their regressive, homophobic ideals.

 

“For me, the personal is political and the political is personal. At the time when our fundamental constitutional rights are under attack, I believe that queer imagery can serve as the most effective weapon against hypocrisy, bigotry, and censorship. When they censor my work either on social media or in real life, my response is always — double up on the queer, double up on the fight and what they don’t want to see. I want to shine light on the darkest corners of human nature and sexuality as a way to understand and peacefully coexist with each other, because being different is a blessing, not a curse.” — Slava Mogutin.

 

This exhibition is composed of photographs, performance and film work from different stages in Slava’s career. …

Tuesday 12.18.18

Pinups Presents Patrick Lee

This new series invites artists to create pictorials in the Pinups format

Pinups – the queer zine focused on bear male nudes – is back for one more special issue! For those of you that are just learning about this publication, here’s the deal, each issue of Pinups “can be dismembered, and the loose pages tiled to reveal a single, monumental image of the subject. The zine’s two states conflict, resulting in visual and narrative abstraction: a dialogue between its physical structure and its printed content.”  This edition is part of their new “Artist Series” and features photography exclusively by Patrick Lee, it tells a story in pictures. The beefy models, Esteban Bartholo and Devin Corbin are photographed cruising in the Mojave Desert at dusk. The zine opens with an ominous quote attributed to an “Anonymous Truck Driver,” “You know what goes on here? It’s where men congregate…I’ve seen some crazy stuff here and I’ve had to pull guys out of here a number of times.”

 
There’s a voyeuristic feel as you flip through the pages. One page shows a picture of shoes on the pavement, the next shows a man standing with his bare butt toward the camera, and out of focus, by rocks, sand, and the setting sun, two men are having sex. Other pages show close-ups of the male form – legs, chests, and dicks – and some show night falling over the scenic desert landscape.

 
“Patrick Lee is known for his photorealistic graphite portraits of toughs, and for his mystifying landscape photography. Lee’s Pinups exploration fuses his favorite subject matter in an atmospheric story of cruising at dusk.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy this issue. …

Thursday 12.13.18

A preview from Mickey Aloisio’s latest show: Trips

Mickey Aloisio is one talented photographer. He’s so talented we’ve featured his work in our printed magazine a couple of times (Issue 5 and Issue 9). His new body of work ‘Trips’ brings “together a collection of images from two seperate photographic journeys the photographer embarked on. Over the last two and half years Aloiso has photographed over 100 men in a total of 20 different cities.” Aloisio’s photographs have a friendliness to them that is very appealing. He often places himself in the frame and it’s immediately clear that he has a connection with the subjects he’s shooting. The intimacy between him and his figures is magnetic.

 

“What’s most thrilling about the creation of each photograph, is the recognition and response, the giving and taking, and the pushing and breaking of the boundaries of the other. Which ultimately explores how our identities are challenged and perceived by the stranger beside us. Each photograph becomes a demonstration of interdependence, acceptance and vulnerability.” Aloiso explains.

 

Join Mickey on Friday, December 14, evening for the opening reception of ‘Trips’ at Leslie Lohman’s Prince Street Project Space (127B Prince St.). The below ground gallery gets packed quickly, and hot, so remember to check your coat (I didn’t last time I was there, and was a sweaty mess.) The opening reception goes from 6:00PM-8:00PM. Should be a cute crowd — you might even run into a few of the stars of his photos, if you’re lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday 12.11.18

Sunil Gupta, Christopher Street 1976

Sunil Gupta moved to New York City in the early 1970s to pursue an MBA, but the city had other plans for him. After realizing he had a passion for photography (Gupta would often hangout on Christopher Street and photograph the young men who were bravely creating some of the first gay public spaces), Sunil left the prospect of an MBA behind and began studying photography under Lisette Model at The New School.

 
The images he captured during his graduate career, nearly a decade after the Stonewall Riots yet years before the AIDs crisis, are compiled in Gupta’s new book, Christopher Street. He shows us a different era, one in which gay men are dressed in Levi’s and leather, where they walk down Christopher Street proudly sporting sideburns and mustaches. Gay sex, as political revolution, was part of this era, too. Men would have sex on street corners and behind parked trucks, not just for fun, but as Gupta says in a recent Guardian article, to be “bad and proud of it.”

 
Sunil shows us this kind of intimacy in his photos. Flipping through the pages of Christopher Street feels like cruising. Men look straight into the lense as they walk past, some smile, some smirk. Gupta does a brilliant job of capturing the gay scene of the time. “What was initially a hobby quickly found a purpose in the fledgling gay liberation movement, documenting gay rights marches as well as the burgeoning gay scene. In retrospect these pictures have become both nostalgic and iconic for a very important moment in my personal history.” Gupta is now based in London, and has presented his photography in more than 90 international solo and group exhibitions. …

Monday 12.03.18

Michael Jackson: On the Wall

A book that celebrates the artist’s lasting impact in our culture

We all have our own story of where we were and who we were with when we learned Michael Jackson was dead. I was in the car with my mom and my older brother, we heard the news over the radio. Despite the controversies that followed Jackson through his late years, his lasting impact on our global culture is undeniable. This is what’s explored in the new book, “Michael Jackson: On the Wall”. The work of over 40 major artists who were inspired by Michael, including David LaChapelle and Andy Warhol, are compiled and reflected on.

 

Contributors like Zadie Smith explore what she calls the “magical thinking” around him. If it was so clear Jackson was bleaching his own skin, why did so many fans chalk it up to conditions like vitiligo? She writes, “That’s when you understand how strong the force of desire is, how much it can deny and distort. It simply could not be that the most famous black man in the world wanted to be white. It would kill us to believe it. And so we refused to do so.”

 

Notable is that contemporary art still focuses on Jackson. From Donald Urquhart’s satirical “A Michael Jackson Alphabet” (2017), to Rodney McMillian’s sobering portrait of Jackson’s childhood home, “2300 Jackson Street” (2004), hung next to lyrics from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: “It ain’t no trick to get rich quick/ If you dig, dig, dig with a shovel or a pick.”

 

Jackson may be dead, but his legacy is proving immortal. …