Male art: two views

(Despite the topic, the content of this posting is decorous.)

(Important proviso: in order to make the two books under discussion here comparable, I’ve focused entirely on male homosexuality. But the Reed book is even in its coverage of homosexuality and art for both sexes.)

Two books that came to me about the sane time in 2011 and have languished on my desktop ever since (I work very slowly and am easily distracted):

Christopher Reed,  Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011)

Kevin Clarke, Porn from Andy Warhol to X-Tube: A Photographic Journey  (Bruno Gmünder, 2011)

The books are very different in tone: the Reed is a scholar’s book (about the interdependence of art and homosexuality in the Western tradition), the Clarke an enthusiast’s book (about the high-end gay visual porn business, mostly in the U.S.).  Reed is nicely but modestly illustrated, Clarke is lavishly illustrated in the Gmünder tradition, with many full-page displays of pornstars. But the two books overlap, especially in the figure of Andy Warhol.

The front covers:



#1 is a detail from Innocence (1981), a ceramic by Jerry Janosco, from a New Museum exhibition “Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art”. The full work (the reproduction here is not very good):


#2 is a still (by Fred Bisonnes) from Falcon’s Jocks Studios’ Ramcharger (1983), a scene with actors Ed Wiley and Bob Bishop. The scenes in the flick have no dialogue and not a lot of story — each one is a man-man hookup for sex, whose story is mostly.the unfolding of a sexual encounter — but they do have settings (in the desert, for #2) and personas for the characters, suggested by their clothing and the way they carry themselves (cowboy and muscle-boy, in #2).

The Reed. The publisher’s (excellent) blurb on

This bold, globe-spanning survey is the first book to thoroughly explore the radical, long-standing interdependence between art and homosexuality. It draws examples from the full range of the Western tradition, including classical, Renaissance, and contemporary art, with special focus on the modern era. It was in the modern period, when arguments about homosexuality and the avant-garde were especially public, that our current conception of the artist and the homosexual began to take shape, and almost as quickly to overlap. Not a chronology of gay or lesbian artists, the book is a fascinating and sophisticated account of the ways two conspicuous identities have fundamentally informed one another. Art and Homosexuality discusses many of modernism’s canonical figures — painters like Courbet, Picasso, and Pollock; writers like Whitman and Stein — and issues, such as the rise of abstraction, the avant-garde’s relationship to its patrons and the political exploitation of art. It shows that many of the core ideas that define modernism are nearly indecipherable without an understanding of the paired identities of artist and homosexual. Illustrated with over 175 b/w and color images that range from high to popular culture and from Ancient Greece to contemporary America, Art and Homosexuality punctures the platitudes surrounding discussions of both aesthetics and sexual identity and takes our understanding of each in stimulating new directions.

Reed is mostly focused on relatively recent art (including photography and film as well as painting, drawing, and sculpture) and the avante-garde, and it takes in many kinds of art beyond that recognized by art’s gate-keeping institutions: illustration, commercial art, decorative art, folk art, the art of political demonstration (the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, for instance), caricature and political art (though not, apparently, most cartoons and comics), and, yes, art with a strong physical presence: soft porn like that in Physique Pictorial — here, an illustration (showing construction workers) by Art-Bob from fall 1956:


and homoerotic paintings with classical allusions, like this Delmar Howe painting The Three Graces of 1972-73:


and the photo-story art of Duane Michals, often highly politically engaged, as in his A Dream of Flowers (1986):


On Michals on this blog: a posting of 2/8/15.

Eight chapters in the Reed:

1 Varieties of “homosexuality,” varieties of “art”

2 Before Modernism

3 Inventing the Modern: art and sexual identity in the late Nineteenth Century

4 Secrets and subcultures, 1900-1940

5 The short triumph of the Modern, 1940-65 [including Pop Art and camp]

6 The avante-garde and activism, 1965-82

7 The AIDS decade, 1982-92 [section on homophobia]

8 Queer and beyond [including the rise of the label queer]

Thought-provoking throughout.

The Clarke. The book has four types of content: full-page introductory pictorial spreads on individual pornstars, and then three interleaved sets of chapters: interviews with people in the business, back of the camera; “specials” on a variety of topics; and essays about gay porn, mostly arranged chronologically.

Introductory spreads: Jack Wrangler, Michael Lucas, Lucas Ridgston, Brent Everett, Carl Hardwick, Bill Henson, Joe Dallesandro [as in my recent posting], Kent North, Leo Ford, Jeff Stryker, Dred Scott, Roman Heart, Arpad Miklos, Kip Noll, Steve Cruz, Nick Piston. Many of these men have been covered in earlier postings on this blog or AZBlogX

Interviews behind the camera with: JC Adams, Tom DeSimone, William Higgins, Fred Bisonnes, Axel Schock, Lucas Kazan, John Rutherford, Chi Chi LaRue, Chris Ward, Mr. Pam.

Specials about: Tom Bianchi [still photographer], Erotikus [early porn studio], Peter Berlin [actor], Querelle [highly stylized porn film by Fassbinder], Mike Arlen [British still photographer], amateur studios, Brent Corrigan [actor], Jeff Burton [still photographer], Tom Ford [gay fashion designer]

Features: Foreplay: A Short Intro; Porn as Pop Art; The Golden Age of Promiscuity; Boom Years: Porn as Safe-Sex; Grab Your Dick and Double Click! [on on-line porn]

The book has more than enough stunning photos of male bodies and man-man sex to satisfy any porn enthusiast.

Now a few non-X photos from the book, starting with a playful Bruce of L.A. cowboy: just the boots and hat, man, plus a phallic gun posed so as to conceal the model’s actual penis:


And then three shots from the feature on director Lukas Kazan, “Porn Works Just Like Italian Opera”.

Kazan filming School of Lovers (2006), his version of Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte, starring Martin Dejdar and Karel Rock as the randy “sisters”:


And a still from Under the Big Top [2003], a porn version of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (1892); plus one from A Sicilian Tale [2002], a porn version of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (1890):


Porn flicks can be made on pretty much any model.

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