It’s been a long time coming, but the artist Tom of Finland — master of the bulge — is finally getting his first major survey. At Artists Space in NYC, the exhibition will include more than 140 drawings, rarely-seen watercolors from the 1940s, over 600 collages, and his early childhood drawings. ‘Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play’ is the first exhibition to analyze the historic role that his art has played in addressing and transgressing stereotypes of gender, sexuality, race, and class.
It may look playful — if graphic — now, but his work hasn’t always been seen as such. Back when simply being gay was criminal, Tom of Finland (aka Touko Laaksonen) was exploring the outer, and inner, reaches of male-on-male art. As Billy Miller, editor of the hardcore gay-erotica magazine Straight to Hell, told us upon the opening of Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland at MOCA last year, “In the 1950s, naked male bodies with only an outline of a cock seen through a posing strap were just as explicit [as gay porn]…probably more so.”
Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play, June 14 – August 23, 2015, Artists Space, 38 Greene Street, NYC