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
The clearest way to describe Fred Curchak's take on the life of Gauguin is to call it an interpretive dance, with flashlights, performed in front of a slide show of Gauguin's paintings while a voice-over gives us the artist's biography in journal entries and letters. That's not quite accurate -- Curchak talks back to the voice-over, and recites long passages live; he also resorts to shadow puppetry behind the screen, as well as a wayang-style marionette to represent native Tahitians. But you get the idea. Curchak worked on the experimental fringes of San Francisco theater in the 1970s and '80s and now holds a professorship in art and performance at the University of Texas at Dallas. He's well known for his avant-garde work, and the Gauguin story itself is rich with contradiction for any artist who might feel tempted to throw off the bourgeois lifestyle and move to a remote island paradise like Tahiti. But Curchak's show is bunk. His movement is forced, his gestures are literal, and the red and blue flashlights evoke nothing so much as a cop cruiser. The problem isn't that the show resembles a cliché of the avant-garde: It's that all of Curchak's feverish innovations seem imposed on his material, not discovered by it.