PHOTOS: Fans of physique culture and old-timey hunks, gird your loins and prep your posing pouches because two of the pioneering figures of 20th century erotic art and forefathers of post-war gay culture are getting their due. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) will play host to the first American museum exhibition devoted to the art of Bob Mizer (1922–1992) and Touko Laaksonen, aka “Tom of Finland” (1920–1991) beginning November 2.
Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland features a selection of Tom of Finland’s drawings and collages, alongside Mizer’s rarely seen photo-collage “catalogue boards” and films, as well as a comprehensive collection of his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial, where drawings by Tom were first published in 1957.
Beginning in the 1940s, Tom of Finland produced thousands of images placing hypermasculine archetypes — sailors, bikers, lumberjacks, cops and cowboys — in a bulging homoerotic context. His drawings would later come to life as men, inspired by the fantasy and fetishization, began to model themselves after this venereally virile ideal in what became the emergent gay leather scene.
Mizer picked up his camera as early as 1942, but shying away from the world of illicit underground physique nudes, Mizer founded the Athletic Model Guild in 1945 — a film and photo studio specializing in the boy-next-door type. For almost 50 years, Mizer worked at a feverish pace, photographing some 10,000 models, producing about 60 photos a day, seven days a week, while creating a number of satirical prison dramas, sci-fi adventures and other sexually provocative cinema.
Young Touko Laaksonen was enamored with Physique Pictorial, originally founded as the studio’s publication and sales tool, and sent his first drawings into Mizer’s muscle mag. Mizer was taken by the artist’s drawings and featured them on the cover. However, finding Laaksonen’s name too difficult for his clientele, Mizer re-christened him “Tom of Finland.” The rest is, more or less, queerstory.
In addition to approximately 75 finished and preparatory drawings by Tom of Finland spanning 1947–1991, Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland includes a selection of Tom’s never before exhibited scrapbook collages, and examples of his serialized graphic novels, as well as a selection of Mizer’s “catalogue boards,” AMG films, and a complete set of Physique Pictorial magazines.
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. The exhibition will run from November 2, 2013 to January 26, 2014.
Check out some of the exhibit’s highlights below:
Bob Mizer, Physique Pictorial, 1968. Published with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation.
Bob Mizer, Physique Pictorial, 1962. Published with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation.
Bob Mizer, Untitled [Dennis Schreffer with Portrait], c. 1957. Published with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation. Bob Mizer. Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. c.1965. Published with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation.
Tom of Finland, Untitled © 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation
Tom of Finland, Untitled © 1962 Tom of Finland Foundation