LA Mounts Historic Gay Exhibit

LAMoCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles, is mounting a new exhibition celebrating artworks by Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network will appreciate this historical and academic overview of two artistic forefathers of American gay culture.

This is the first American museum exhibition devoted to the art of Bob Mizer (1922–1992) and Touko Laaksonen, aka "Tom of Finland" (1920–1991), two of the most significant figures of twentieth century erotic art.

The exhibition features a selection of Tom of Finland's drawings and collages, alongside Mizer's rarely seen photo-collage "catalogue boards" and films, as well as a comprehensive collection of his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial, where drawings by Tom were first published in 1957.

Organized by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and guest co-curator Richard Hawkins, the exhibition is presented with the full collaboration of the Bob Mizer Foundation, El Cerrito, and the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles.

Tom of Finland is the creator of some of the most iconic and readily recognizable imagery of post-war gay culture.

He produced thousands of images beginning in the 1940s, robbing straight culture of its most virile archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys, and sailors) and recasting them—through skill and fantastic imagination—as proud enthusiasts of gay sex. His depictions eventually became the foundation of an emerging gay leather culture.

Bob Mizer began photographing as early as 1942. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the subculture of illicit physique nudes, Mizer took the Hollywood star-system approach and founded the Athletic Model Guild in 1945, a film and photo studio specializing in handsome natural-bodied (as opposed to exclusively muscle-bound, the norm of the day) boy-next-door talent.

In his myriad satirical prison dramas, sci-fi flix, domesticated bachelor scenarios, and elegantly captivating studio sessions, Mizer photographed and filmed over 10,000 models at a rough estimate of 60 photos a day, seven days a week for almost 50 years.

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

Spanning five decades, the exhibition seeks a wider appreciation for Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer's work, considering their aesthetic influence on generations of artists, both gay and straight, among them, Kenneth Anger, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, David Hockney, G.B. Jones, Mike Kelley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henrik Olesen, Jack Pierson, John Waters, and Andy Warhol.

The exhibition also acknowledges the profound cultural and social impact both artists have made, especially in providing open, powerful imagery for a community of desires at a time when it was still very much criminal.

Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland November 2, 2013–January 26, 2014 THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES