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GREAT GAY PHOTO SHOW

Jan 15 - Feb 12, 2008

Great Gay Photo Show
Tom Saettel
From THE ARCHIVE: No. 26: Winter 2008

Two hundred works by seventyone photographers graced the walls of The Leslie/Lohman Galley for the exhibition The Great Gay Photo Show. Curated by the LLGAF exhibition committee from submissions from around the world, the exhibition seemed to be about what it is to be gay in the first decade of the 21st century, and by and large the joy in it. Several themes permeate the exhibition, and several artists have feet in more than one camp. I might add that lesbians were conspicuously absent from the exhibition, but we look forward to a good showing in the forthcoming lesbian exhibition in May, 2008.

Poignant visual investigation of the role of relationships was present in the work of Frank Sheehan and Gerald Mocarsky. Sheehan’s photographs of two, small, male, porcelain dolls placed as if with loving affectionate regard for each other make us ponder our own relationships. Four photographs by Mocarsky of men dancing—older men engaged in ballroom dancing; younger men possibly at a sexy two-step event— show men in tender social engagement, refreshingly different from the photographs we as gay men encounter daily in magazines and on the Internet. Several portraits, those by Grant Anderson, Reed Massengill, and Delvin Elijah, make us wonder who are these beguiling men, what makes them tick? Whereas in the many and varied nude studies exhibited, we are in a way distracted from concerns we have with the portraits and delight in the beauty of the bodies portrayed and more formal concerns of composition and light. I have never met a gay man who did not believe that viewing nude male photography was not his inalienable right as a gay man— perhaps they do exist. And then several of the nude studies take us in new directions. Brett Wexler’s elegant smooth photographs of young men with frames, obviously interior shots, but are these men climbing through or embracing the enigmatic frames. Michael Harwood’s studies of handsome men playfully inhabiting ordinary kitchens in rather unordinary ways are elegantly formal but at the same time give us a prurient rush of wild sex on the kitchen table. George Dinhaupt’s self-effacing, full body self-portrait presents us with a man gracefully content with age and girth. Joseph Modica treats us to the 38˝ x 50˝ C-print Rob. A pose usually reserved for the female nude, this faceless nude sends our minds reeling through all of Western art history—Titian, Eduoard Manet, George Platt Lynnes, Bert Stern. The pink throw adds a cheeky, quaint, vintage note; the scars and blemishes on the man’s ass, a humbling one. One of Michael Skoglund’s nude studies is only of a booted tattooed leg hanging over the edge of a bathtub but quite a rush for many. Several groups of impeccable and very sexy nude portraits stand out as beautifully crafted work; I will mention Wilson Models and Timothy Lomas as blazing examples. The three large C-prints by Ralph Modica bridge several themes. The extremely labor-intensive experimental work based on classical pieces of sculpture, begin with a live shoot of models covered in white body paint, standing on constructed plinths. Later a multitude of images are masterly combined in Photoshop. They evoke 19th century tableau vivant performances, and they harken to the photographs of tenderness discussed earlier. Walter Kurtz’s nude studies are quite captivating as well. He uses chiaroscuro in the freshest way I have ever encountered. And his choice of subject shares this freshness— an exquisitely beautiful arm tattooed with a rather art nouveau image; a torso and most delicate buttocks. Skillfully shot documentary works dot the exhibition. Martin Fishman, a heterosexual photojournalist, who has regularly contributed to LLGAF group photo exhibitions, serves us with four images—two of New York drag queens; and two men as angels, one white, one black. Dance photography often bridges documentary and portraiture as in Lois Greenfield’s portraits of Arthur Aviles of BAAD (Bronx Academy of Art and Dance). In two photographs the finefeathered Aviles literally takes flight. Ross Bennett Lewis will tell you, “I shoot what I see,” but his exquisitely composed photography always moves deep into ones soul. His found image of a man in a laundromat melted me. Both Douglas Blair Turnbaugh and Michael Wakefield have unique color vocabularies, and their work seems to speak of the infinity of love. Tom Castele’s photographs of gay men on Fire Island depict young men having fun. Somewhat documentary although obviously staged, the joy of the men sings clear. Robert W. Richards, not known for his photography but rather for his drawings, treats us to a very quizzical image, Nelson Comes to Tea—a rather butch man in a crinoline sitting on the artist’s sofa. Is this a model? Is this a friend? Does he do drag or is he just camping it up in the moment? I don’t wanna know. I don’t wanna hear. I just want to swoon in the surrealism. These notes would be remiss not to mention the many artists working in a more experimental mode, such as Hugh Holland, Mark Davis, and Santiago Javier Infantino working in photo montage; Robert Irwin, Giovanni Guadagnoli, Robert Leach, and Bill Travis who have reworked their photographs either in Photoshop or with actual paint. Chuck Hovland who will always surprise has in this exhibition distorted his hypersexed models almost to oblivion. Farsad Labbauf also distorts his images as in his woven strips of porn meant to evoke the fractured glimpses of bodies as we browse so many many Internet images. He has also dissected his own image and sewn some of his fragmented self together again.

List of artists: Michael Alago, Matthew Albanese, Tommy Allen,
Grant Anderson, Jonathan Atkin, Dominick Avellino,
Phili Calkins, Tom Castele, Regis Cebrain, Thomas Clay, Brendan Connors, Mark Davis, Francisco Deleon,
George Dinhaupt, Devin Elijah, Yoshua Eyal, Andy Fair, Maurizio Fiorino, Martin Fishman, Claude Furones,
Robert Miller Galster, Lois Greenfield, Giovanni Guadagnoli, Steven Hass, Kim Hanson, Michael Harwood,
Fayette Hauser, Hugh Holland, Charles Hovland, Santiago Javier Infantino, Robert Irwin, David Jarrett,
Michael Johnstone, Michael Kaye, Michael Kurtz, Farsad Labbauf, Robert leach, Ross Bennett Lewis,
Harry Lines, Timothy Lomas, Frank Louis, Donald Manza, Reed Massengill, Greg Mitchell, Gerald Mocarsky,
Joseph Modica, Ralph Modica, Ocean Morisset, Nathaniel Ndosi, John D. Nieman, Xavier Radic, Paul Reitz,
Eric Rhein, Robert w. Richards, Neil Malcolm Roberts, Alfredo Rossi, Frank Sheehan, Michael Skoglund,
Stanley Stellar,
Richard Taddei, The. Titolo, Bill Travis, Douglas Blair Turnbaugh, Jiro Ueno, Michael Wakefield,
Allen Warren, Fred Watson, Richard Weaver, Bret Wexler, Tony Whitfield, Wilson Models.

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