While they often presented themselves as bodybuilders’ publications, their chuckle-prompting titles — Torso, Adonis, Honcho, Mandate — didn’t lie. Gay men’s magazines of decades past were bought by gay men who wanted to look at the erotic illustrations of well- built male bodies therein. Because any- one known to possess such material in the homophobic 1950s and 1960s could experience serious consequences, men hid the magazines under their mat- tresses. These illustrations have now inspired a traveling exhibition, Stroke: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Wall. Curated by notable erotic artist Robert W. Richards and orig- inating at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the popular show contains 24 original illustrations that ap- peared in gay magazines from the 1950s to the 1990s. It also looks at how gay men, forced into the closet during those decades, used these pictures to explore their sexuality intimately. It additionally serves as a showcase for the artists in- volved. On view are works by two dozen top artists of the times, including Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland), Antonio Lopez (Antonio), and David Martin.More
If you have seen Antony & the Johnsons’ video for the song “Epilepsy Is Dancing,” you have already begun to glean the lush aesthetic of Mexico-born artists Tino Rodriguez and Virgo Paraiso: an opulent fantasy world filled with carnivorous flowers, dancing skeletons, shape-shifting animals, bedeviling twinkle lights, and the all-too-perceptive looking glass. And that’s just their apartment. Give them canvas and paint, and their imaginations flee from the laws of physics and the rules of man. At ease in the lowbrow art world, where surrealists and symbolists seek pop metaphors, Rodriguez uses fairy tale, myth, and idolatry from Europe and the Americas as a springboard into gardens of gun-toting fairies, swan-hearted gangsters, and rocking-horse meteorites. Armed with the hand of a Dutch master and the heart of the alchemist, Paraiso explores the liberation and frustration of metamorphosis: Hummingbirds sip from the flowers of human tongues, nymphs bathe under the gaze of cats, mermaids are ravaged by octopuses, erections become crowns of glory, and babies get stuck in spider webs. Bring Paraiso and Rodriguez together and you have “Pagan Poetry,” an unearthly visual romance somewhere between Frida Kahlo’s diary and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While individually interesting, Rodriguez and Paraiso’s collaborations are works of pure chemistry — passionate, dangerous, funny, and challenging.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: May 12. Continues through June 10, 2012