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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.
November 2, 2013 - January 26, 2014
Los Angeles, CA

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles
presents:
Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland


BOB MIZER
Jim Horn, Los Angeles, c. 1966
Vintage large-format black and white negative Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

                

TOM OF FINLAND,
(Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991)
Untitled (No.1 from "Cyclist and the Farm Boy" series) 1973
Graphite on paper, 11” x 8”
Bob Mizer/AMG Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #73.10, © 1973 Tom of Finland Foundation

Opening Party: Saturday, November 9, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Admission to MOCA Pacific Design Center is free.
With
Art & Physique Circa Bob & Tom
(6:00 - 9:00 PM) for a look at erotic art from the 1940s, 50s & 60s.
And
GoGo Dancer Appreciation Festival
(7:30 - 10:30 PM) with this year's theme: Tom of Finland!

PLUS

Classic Porn Grooves
On November 16, 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Honey Soundsytem DJing with film loops from '80s porn projected on the side of the PDC buliding
along with curated performances related to synthesizer legend Patrick Cowley's Fox Studio work.

PLUS

MOCA To One
On January 12, 2:00 - 5:00 PM
Art Walk Tour with Durk Dehner, President of Tom of Finland Foundation
and John Sonsini, LA artist and Assistant to Bob Mizer 1986 - 1992

PLUS
Two Panel Discussions in the West Hollywood City Council Chambers
On November 17 and December 1, 2013

Closing Talk January 26, 12 noon - 2:00 PM
An informal talk on “Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland”
By Durk Dehner, President & Cofounder Tom of Finland Foundation
At The Museum of Contemporary Art at Pacific Design Center

Organized by MOCA
Curator Bennett Simpson and guest co-curator Richard Hawkins,
the exhibition is presented with the full collaboration of
Bob Mizer Foundation and Tom of Finland Foundation
and made possible by
David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and The City of West Hollywood.

Additional support is provided by Blake Byrne, Gina Padilla and Dexter Williams.
Generous support for MOCA Pacific Design Center is provided by Charles S. Cohen.

In Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland we get to see how their careers were both related and divergent.

MOCA presents 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 and forefathers of an emergent post-war gay culture.

The exhibition features a selection of Tom of Finland’s masterful drawings and collages, alongside Mizer’s rarely seen photo-collage “catalogue boards” and films, as well as a comprehensive collection of his groundbreaking magazinePhysique 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 homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys, and sailors) and recasting them—through deft skill and fantastic imagination—as unapologetic, self-aware, and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex. His most innovative achievement though, worked out in fastidious renderings of gear, props, settings, and power relations inherent therein, was to create the depictions that would eventually become the foundation of an emerging gay leather culture. Tom imagined the leather scene by drawing it; real men were inspired by it… and suited themselves up.

Bob Mizer began photographing as early as 1942, but 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. Mizer always presented a fresh-faced and free, unashamed and gregarious, totally natural and light-hearted approach to male nudity and intimate physical contact between men.

For these groundbreaking perspectives in eroticized representation alone, Mizer ranks with Alfred Kinsey at the forefront of the sexual revolution. Though Laaksonen did not start spending time in Los Angeles until the early 1980s, 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.

By the time the gay liberation movement swept through the United States in the late 1960s, both Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer were already well-known and widely celebrated as veritable pioneers of gay art. Decades before Stonewall Inn and the raid on the Black Cat Tavern these evocative and lusty representations of masculine desire and joyful, eager sex between men proliferated and were disseminated worldwide at a time when the closet was still very much the norm—there was no such thing as a gay community.

If these artists were not ahead of their time, they might just have foreseen and even invented a time.

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.

Presenting the broader historical context and key aspects of their shared interests and working relationship, as well as more in-depth solo rooms dedicated to each artist, the exhibition establishes the art historical importance of the staggering work of these legendary figures.

In addition to approximately 75 finished and preparatory drawings by Tom of Finland spanning 1947–1991, the exhibition includes a selection of Tom’s never before exhibited scrapbook collages, and examples of his serialized graphic novels, including the legendary leatherman Kake, as well as a selection of Mizer’s “catalogue boards,” AMG films, and a complete set of Physique Pictorialmagazine. An accompanying publication includes texts by the exhibition co-curators and a selection of images.

The show revisits how gay artists in the mid-20th century were “robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys, and sailors) and recasting them—through deft skill and fantastic imagination—as unapologetic, self-aware, and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex.”

— Eric Shorey

Durk Dehner Talks About Tom of Finland and TOM House Tour

In this short video, Dehner and Foundation vice president S.R. Sharp discuss Tom’s radical imaginary, his command of the gay male gaze, how Tom of Finland got his name, and why Tom made the move to Los Angeles. Dehner has preserved the home he shared with Tom as a homage to Tom’s legacy, and to this day, the home remains open to the public.

Directed by Emma Reeves
Shot by Tom Salvaggio & Andy Featherston
Edited by Tom Salvaggio

More on TOM's Blog

Richard Hawkins on Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland


Artist Richard Hawkins tours Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland. Hawkins, who guest co-curated the exhibition with MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson, examines selections from the first-ever presentation of catalogue boards of Mizer’s Athletic Model Guild studios, which to him are enthusiastic celebrations of everyday youth and beauty, as well as Tom of Finland’s pencil drawings and pen-and-ink illustrations of radical sexuality.

Directed by Emma Reeves
Shot by Tom Salvaggio & Andy Featherston
Edited by Tom Salvaggio

More on TOM's Blog

Photos of the opening.

Review by Kate Wolf for Artform
"If Tom of Finland helped pave the way to gay liberation with mythic portrayals of indomitable
queer men, Bob Mizer documented the real people walking along the path."

Review by a Straight Guy, Gay Guy, and a Straight Woman for LA Weekly
"Straight Guy: I think it would be tough for any man, regardless of orientation,
not to emerge from this unaffected."

Review by Christopher Knight for the Los Angeles Times
"Fun To Be Had In Works Of Bob Mizer And Tom of Finland"

Review by Drew Mackie for KCET
"Tom of Finland In Los Angeles"

Essay by artist and exhibition co-curator Richard Hawkins
"Paper Tricks: Richard Hawkins on Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland"

Review by Kevin Killian in ARTFORUM
"In Victorian times, the site of gay pleasure, sensuality, and communality was the ol’ swimming hole, celebrated by artists like Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, Thomas Eakins and Henry Scott Tuke. Photographer and publisher Bob Mizer and illustrator Touko Laaksonen (“Tom of Finland”) relocated the Victorian Eden to the filling stations, pools, bars, gyms, and barracks of a landscape remarkably like Los Angeles, a sunbaked utopia where every man’s a dreamboat and he’s bursting out of his jeans to get at you."

Review by James Nichols in Huffington Post
"Richard Hawkins Tours Bob Mizer And Tom Of Finland Exhibition"

Review by Kyle Fitzpatrick in Los Angeles I'm Yours
"Penis Pals: Bob Mizer & Tom Of Finland At MOCA"

Review by Ryan Wong in Hyperallergic
"Tom, Bob, and the Boys: Queering Midcentury Americana"

PANEL DISCUSSIONS

MOCA is presenting two panel discussions in the West Hollywood City Council Chambers in conjunction with the exhibition Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland. We encourage you to attend these events and visit the ONE Gallery:

The Shaping of Desires
Sunday, November 17, 2013, 3 PM

West Hollywood City Council Chambers
625 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069 · MAP
More on TOM's Blog

A lively conversation exploring artistic investigations and representations of bodies, sexualities, and genders with artists Heather Cassils, Monica Majoli, and A. L. Steiner, moderated by MoMA PS1 Curatorial Associate and ONE’s Cruising the Archive co-curator, Mia Locks.

Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland: Making Models of Homo-Masculinity
Sunday, December 1, 2013, 3 PM

West Hollywood City Council Chambers
625 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069 · MAP
More on TOM's Blog

Dennis Bell, President of the Bob Mizer Foundation, S. R. Sharp, Vice president of the Tom of Finland Foundation, and artists Richard Hawkins and John Sonsini, will discuss the artistic and cultural significance of Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland in a conversation moderated by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson on World AIDS Day.

 

Review in Frontiers Magazine
The L.A. museum welcomes an exhibit
featuring the work of Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland

Western artists have long considered portrayals of the ideal male physique to be a deserved focus of aesthetics. In Ancient Greece, Lysippos of Sikyon’s most recognizable sculpture, Apoxyomenos (aka The Scraper), depicts a nude athlete scraping oil from his body after exercising. The muscle-toned youth exhibits a chiastic stance echoed in nude male statuary through the centuries, most notably in Michelangelo’s most famous work, David.

The idealized masculine image, however, isn’t confined to classical sculpture. Over the ages, portrayals of strapping, disrobed young men have featured prominently in paintings as well, evidenced by the oeuvre of Thomas Eakins, a 19th century Philadelphia-based artist whose work frequently showcased his male students sunbathing in the buff.

The pendulum of art—like the history which produces it—constantly swings from liberalism to conservatism. Its blade regularly vacillates between an exaltation of the male form and the form’s condemnation. Often during these darker, sexually repressed eras, fields of creativity would suffer from suppression and censorship. During the Middle Ages, for instance, the Vatican castrated numerous statues, including the aforementioned Apoxyomenos, replacing statues’ phalluses with sexually neutral fig leaves.

This mentality of unease towards homoerotic imagery permeated Puritan-influenced American culture, and it was within a climate of homo-repression that artistic rebels like Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland flourished.

Considered pioneers of the 20th century male nude, both artists will be showcased in The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’ new exhibit, Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland, the first American museum exhibition devoted to the works of Mizer (1922-92) and Touko Laaksonen (1920-91), the man behind the Tom of Finland name.


Bob Mizer, Physique Pictorial, Volume 7, Number 1; 1957; Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc.
Artwork by Tom of Finland © 1957 Tom of Finland Foundation, Inc.

Adopting the pseudonym Tom of Finland for English-speaking audiences, Laaksonen regularly contributed to Physique Pictorial, his artwork first gracing the magazine’s cover in 1957 with a drawing of muscular lumberjacks at work. These libidinous log-drivers are but one example of Laaksonen usurping archetypically heterosexual personae and recasting them in a homoerotic light. At the time, gay men were generally portrayed as effeminate in films and vaudevillian theater. Laaksonen challenged this narrow-minded, homophobic perspective by cultivating the homo-masculine potential of cops, cowboys, sailors and, most prominently, bikers. Laaksonen’s renditions of the latter are what inspired our modern day leather movement.

Curated by Bennett Simpson and guest co-curator Richard Hawkins, the MOCA show features a selection of Laaksonen’s iconic and masterful drawings, collages and books, juxtaposed with Mizer’s photographs, films and a collection of his groundbreaking magazine, Physique Pictorial. Presented in collaboration with the Bob Mizer Foundation and the Tom of Finland Foundation, the exhibit seeks a wider appreciation for Mizer and Laaksonen’s art, considering their aesthetic influence on generations of artists, both gay and straight, while also acknowledging the artists’ profound cultural and social impact, most importantly in providing open, powerful imagery of queer sexuality in an era of rapidly shifting attitudes towards homosexuality.

“There’s a joyful, celebratory and sex-positive aspect to Mizer’s photographs and Tom’s drawings,” says Hawkins. “Both artists began working and publishing 20 years before Stonewall, so we know very clearly that they were ahead of their time. But I would like to think that they actually helped create a time.”

“Tom of Finland can be considered the forefather of the leather community,” says Hawkins, “in that he single-handedly perfected—through his own meldings of the sexiest aspects of biker and military leathers—what we can now readily identify as leather and fetish gear. But, in addition to that, Tom was able to create characters who were devout and self-confident enthusiasts of gay sex without even a hint of shame. In that sense, the work can be considered militant … as well as hot.“

Complete article by MIKE CIRIACO



Review in Vogue (Italy)
Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland exhibition

The Pacific Design Center of the MOCA in Los Angeles opens the door to Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland, an exhibition organized by the museum's curator Bennett Simpson and Richard Hawkins (co-curator of the event).

The project turns its attention to two pioneers of homoerotic art of the twentieth century as well as precursors of gay culture during the postwar period. Bob Mizer, publisher of historical homosexual magazine Physique Pictorial, a photographer whose peculiarity was able to capture the male nudity without shame, with extreme freedom and irony, he is considered the man who pioneered the sexual revolution.


TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Detail), 1968
Graphite on paper, 12.94” x 9.38”, ToFF Cat. #68.06, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1968 Tom of Finland Foundation

Though Laaksonen, known by the name of Tom of Finland, was instead a Finnish illustrator who reworked models symbol of male virility and homophobic culture in fantastic, making them the symbol of gay pride, his depictions are considered to be foundations, emerging at the time, the leather gay cultures. The two worked together for the magazine Mizer, Physique Pictorial, in fact the exposure as well as a selection of the best illustrations of Tom of Finland and some new works by Bob Mizer such as movies, collages and catalogs, will include also a collection of covers taken directly from the archive of Physique Pictorial, designed by Tom at the time and published for the first time in 1957. [Google Translate]



L’UOMO VOGUE | News in Italian

More on TOM's Blog

More info and photos on TOM's Blog

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles
Monday closed, Tuesday - Friday 11 AM –5 PM, Saturday & Sunday 11 PM – 6 PM
Closed New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA · MAP · 310.657.0800
(North San Vicente, between Santa Monica & Melrose)

The Museum of Contemporary Art
Website
MOCA Pacific Design Center Page

Bob Mizer Foundation Website

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MATTERS OF SIZE
“Cock size doesn’t matter to me. I didn’t start doing those gigantic cocks until the censors let the magazines publish full frontal nudity. I had to come up with something you couldn’t get in a photograph. So those big cocks are all for the other guys — I’m an ass man myself.” — Tom of Finland