Duane Michals doesn’t consider himself a photographer but an expressionist. A great photo, he says, should never show you reality; it should contradict it. It should challenge the way you view the world, bending and upending your assumptions. While Duane is best known for his pioneering narrative sequences — photo series that tell stories like a progression of film stills — his 50-plus-year career spans photojournalism, video art and, of course, portraiture. Duane has shot everyone from René Magritte to Andy Warhol to Meryl Streep. Dreamlike and uncanny, his images tend to offer more questions than answers. And somehow, at 87 years old, he’s still at it.
Born just south of Pittsburgh in 1932, Duane zigzagged from Texas to Colorado to Korea to New York, all before a fateful trip to Russia, where he discovered an instinct for photography. After that, Duane returned to New York and started working in the field professionally, first taking photos for magazines like Esquire and Vogue, then moving to fine-art photography and, with a MoMA show in 1970, landing the first of many prestigious exhibitions.
To hear about it firsthand, I called Duane at his Gramercy Park apartment. He was arch, dryly self-deprecating yet disarmingly insightful. Now in his ninth decade, Duane’s prolific career — which, these days, includes two simultaneous exhibitions at The Morgan Library & Museum and DC Moore Gallery in New York — has maintained its incredible speed. As he said toward the end of our wandering conversation where I laid the compliments on thick, “Yes, yes, hurry up.” …
A new book about the seminal photographer.
There is no better moment for Peter Berlin — the artist, model, and filmmaker whose icon status is solidified with a new eponymous book of sexed up self-portraits. Against the sotto voce background of current LGBTQ voices — all trying to convince mainstream America that we’re just like them and worthy of membership in their most conservative institutions (military, marriage, the church) — comes this mostly forgotten statement of gay male libido, a violently subversive gesture. Promiscuity, even public sex, for the sake of sex alone, is currently the “dirty” unmentioned secret of today’s activists who continue their efforts to transform gay liberation into gay assimilation.
The early 1970s, when Berlin (birth name, Armin von Hoyningen-Huene) created many of the photographs featured in Peter Berlin (Damiani, 2019), was a time when exceptions to community trounced the building of community. It was a time when promiscuity was a breathless celebration rather than a threat to the stable dyad, when activists strove to end the draft rather than add their population to it, and when attacks on the concept of gender were self-invented and deliriously unconventional (consider, for example, the gender-bending Cockettes), seldom looking to the medical establishment for support.
I should know because like Berlin, I experienced firsthand the groundbreaking sexual culture of early 1970s San Francisco. During my years there, from 1969 to 1974, unbridled sex was the central focus of my life and that of most of the young queer males I hung out with. I would see Berlin at The Stud on Folsom Street, motionlessly on display against the same pillar almost every evening, his right foot raised and planted on that pillar so that his pelvis jutted forward to present his absolutely unobtainable loins to anyone with the courage to stare. …
She doesn’t think nature was ever natural
Describing herself as a transdisciplinary artist, Nash Glynn uses photo, video, and painting to address the planet’s future. She explores subjects like fossil fuel extraction and plans to terraform Mars while using traditional figurative painting to increase trans representation and playing with the feminine idea of Mother Earth through personas like Lover Earth.
Glynn grew up in Miami, where rising sea levels made the threats of global warming feel more urgent. As a kid, she learned to paint, working in her father’s set shop, with visual art eventually becoming her ticket out of the city and out of harm’s way. Coming of age as a queer teen, there were the usual fears, violence and bullying, so Glynn commuted two hours to study graphic design instead of attending traditional middle school. She went on to study at Tufts and Columbia, graduating with an MFA in 2017. During grad school, Glynn medically transitioned, no easy feat navigating both at the same time. Today, Brooklyn-based Glynn makes work challenging the gender binary and probing environmental issues, interrogating the idea of nature in both.
Fresh off her recent exhibition at Participant Inc., I met Glynn in late August at her home studio in Greenpoint. While the pressures of validating her identity and processing environmental threats both weigh heavily on her, she’s quick to giggle and incredibly generous. That night she drove me home in a car she bought off Craigslist.
When I returned later in the week for the accompanying photoshoot, Glynn had thrown out her back a day earlier. …
Institute 193 features artists from the Southeastern United States, celebrating creatives from the ‘fly-over’ areas and the unique richness of their production. Their latest exhibition presents a grouping of paintings by Aaron Michael Skolnick, born and raised in Kentucky, and recently relocated in Hudson, New York. Before his move, he spent years taking care of his late husband, who was taken by complications related to the diagnosis of ALS. Their life together changed under the terms of the illness — looming frustration, selfless patience, and a delicate intimacy became their reality. The abundance of paintings he made during this period reflect this state of being, serving as a kinky film score, a gentle love song, and a requiem all at once. Two years have passed and Skolnick has moved into a new chapter in Hudson, painting more recent lovers with a fresh intensity but without forgetting his harrowing and tender memories.
The paintings are mainly articulated in pastel hues; strokes and smudges are turned into smart details. His compositions are focused on scruffy bodies in repose, with seldom a background apart from a soft pillow. Sex acts become gestures of affection rather than carnal transactions, erotic but contemplative. Time is slowed down in the painted scenes, turned into a distant dream of golden light and soul connection. Apart from the portraits, Skolnick also paints still lives: bedside vases of flowers. The age-old trope of cut flowers is framed by the context of the other sensual paintings, a symbol for inevitable decay and fading beauty that must be enjoyed in the moment or memorialized in art. …
opens on November 7, 2019
In anticipation of Benjamin Fredrickson’s upcoming exhibition in New York, we asked him a few questions about his gorgeous subjects, his photographic process, and the evolution of categorizing nude portraiture.
Do you get to know your models before photographing them? How many of them are your friends or lovers? Some of them are friends, and some of them are people that were found through social media. I’m fascinated how social media has reshaped the way in which artists can source subjects. There are even people that “collect” artists/photographers for their online respective portfolios, collecting likes and validation. I love it. Before I.G. existed I would source people from Craigslist, Manhunt, and Adam4Adam.
In your self-portraits, your penis is erect. Is it the act of modeling, of exhibitionism, that gets you in the mood, or do you think about something or someone to turn yourself on? I’m an exhibitionist, I love showing off. I’m also a bit self-conscious when it comes to looking at myself nude without an erection. I prefer to pose in self-portraits with an erection. I love when there is someone else in the room that turns me on when I’m making self-portraits. A lot of the time, I’m by myself and thinking about someone who I’ve photographed or had an intimate encounter with. It can change with the situation. I was in Paris last summer and staying in an Airbnb and there was this frosted window in the hallway, and I just knew that I needed to make a self-portrait sitting in that window sill. …
Mint introduces us to some young, queer beauties in the Colombian city described by his crush as a 'big gay Latin American Berlin.'
The photographer Oliver Mint ended up in Bogota because of a crush — Daniel, a Colombian boy he met in NYC about 4 years ago during his trip to the city. Daniel described the city of Bogota as “a big gay Latin American Berlin,” since that moment Oliver wanted to visit and possibly find him again… He planned to visit Bogota for a month and ended up staying for six months. He told us that he fell in love with everything and everyone. I think Oliver really enjoyed his time there.
Oliver knew that he wanted to do a project in Colombia with queer people, but he wasn’t as keen to reach out to anyone until he visited Manuela Pizzarro’s studio back in July. “She is a costume designer from Bogota and at the time she was selling off all of her archive — racks and racks of about 200+ pieces of clothing because she was moving to Mexico City.” The concept for this shoot came about after spending the afternoon shopping in her airy colonial style studio, he knew he had to shoot everyone in that space with her clothes before she moved.
Manuela is also part of the cast of people that he photographed for this series. “I cast this group of people because there was something about each one of them that felt cool/interesting to me. Also, maybe I subconsciously connected with the way they presented themselves on social media. They are a mix of artists, drag performers, models, writers, singers, students, activists etc., …
Queer attendees enjoy the 24th annual event at the Tom of Finland Foundation
As cool air begins to blow through New York, Van Doren Waxter gallery reminds us of summer bliss, presenting This Marram, a show of TM Davy’s new painting/drawings of friends enjoying the Pines of Fire Island. It is the artist’s fourth solo exhibition at the gallery, this time featuring landscapes, portraiture, and the genre in between: people interacting with the delightful environment that surrounds them. Davy explains, “Every show I make is a personal meditation on love and life. The intimacies of my oil paintings have often developed through an intentional layering of time in my studio and home in Bushwick. But summer has a different feeling of time for me, not more or less intimate. Easier, perhaps, in the way that life and friendships flow more naturally and quickly across a beach and to a sunset. I found a way of making while I sit freely in the happening of that time and place, so the summer and the work could become one experience.”
All works in the exhibition are 14 by 11 inches — a portable size, easily taken to the site of inspiration, allowing Davy to observe and articulate various decisive moments ‘en plein air,’ subtly detailed with a flourish of gouache or oil pastel. His art may be understood as elaborating on the historical movements of Impressionism and Expressionism, taking the styles to a new height with hints of neon tonality and gestural, abstracted compositions of thick grass, textured clouds, and splashy tides. Arranged in the gallery space side-by-side, without frames, the collection is displayed sequentially. …
In keeping with the current movement of painters queering the genre of portrait painting, 1969 Gallery in the Lower East Side presents Twice Over, a solo exhibition featuring the work of Rebecca Ness. Having completed a graduate degree in painting and printmaking from Yale of School of Art this year, Ness is adept at both articulating the human body and developing conceptual motifs. While the work has an academic rigor, it also has an effortless quality as it captures scenes of comfortable domesticity. The subjects of her paintings often demonstrate the power of relationships and the dynamic of micro versus macro, the smaller parts constituting the larger whole.
“Closet” (2019) shows a figure standing with their hands on their hips, their head cropped out of the frame. A mirror reflects the colorful interior of the closet, the racks of clothing forming a varicolored rainbow. The figure appears in motion as they try on a leafy green and white bottom to match a red, checkered sweater. The phenomena of mirroring in this work may serve as metaphor for the queer couple, building their own identities loosely and in relationship to each other, one of Ness’ overarching themes. Often, lovers wear each other’s clothing, borrowing from their companion’s wardrobe, adopting and imparting their sense of style. This may be particularly more common in couples that share the same gender. In other paintings, like “Sunday” (2019) and “Kiss” (2019), the artist and her partner are shown anonymously, their heads cropped out in focused compositions of bodies wearing colorful clothing and sneakers. …
Born in the Bronx, the Black photographer Alvin Baltrop spent the bulk of his life in New York, but from 1969 to 1972, he and a lot of young men were at war in Vietnam. It was there he first picked up a camera, photographing his Navy comrades. His time overseas inspired him to enroll at the School of Visual Arts upon his return home to New York. After finishing his studies, Baltrop turned his lens to the West Side of Manhattan and the decaying piers jutting into the putrid Hudson River, where, camera in hand, he captured men among the heaps of wood and metal. They came for sex, drugs and suicide, many of them knowingly or unknowingly crossing paths with Baltrop. His invasive yet understanding portraits make up Alvin Baltrop: The Piers, a fascinating document of the era between the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis.
Though they may have seemed like outsiders to the bigger world, the men who frequented these rundown piers were part of a larger community, one to which Baltrop also subscribed. After all, sodomy laws were still in effect in 1970s New York, which led to the piers turning into a gathering place as well as an escape.
“The waterfront had turned into another kind of cruising area, with men looking for other men, likely strangers, to satisfy their forbidden and illegal desires,” Glenn O’Brien writes in the book’s foreword. “The men you see in these pictures were outlaws.”
Baltrop — who claimed to be attracted to men and women but was regarded as gay by his peers — was friendly with many of his subjects, so it’s no surprise the photographs are deeply personal. …