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A NEW TOM OF FINLAND EXHIBITION FOR 2021 : PEN AND INK 1965-1989

A brand-new exhibition of one of our favourite and most famous fetish artists starts this month and runs from 20th March to the 1st Of may at the David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. With the full backing and consultation of the Tom of Finland Foundation the exciting brilliant exhibit is under safe Covid rules by timed reservation only although for those that cannot make it there is virtual visits you can do from your own computer at home. It is hoped and we do expect that the exhibit will tour other Cities and hopefully territories when this initial engagement is complete. This is another positive pointer that the fetish World is starting to awake from its C19 slumber (If you know of any other gay fetish events/venues that are starting in any territory April through July please let us know as we are happy to publicise the brave promoters and club location owners who are spearheading SAFELY and under all local rules the rebirth of our leather and rubber clad social World).

For those who don’t know, Touko Valio Laarksonan (1920-1991) was a Finnish artist who worked under the pseudonym “Tom of Finland” creating his “Filthy little drawings” at a time when homosexuality was illegal, and explicit queer representation in popular culture was non-existent.Although Tom didn’t invent the leather archetype, he was present at its conception and he is certainly responsible for crystallising it in the imagination of generations of leather lovers. It has become deeply ingrained in the psyche of popular culture beyond the leather community or the niche of the art world. The art critic Edward Lucie-Smith wrote “Tom altered the way gay men thought about themselves. He also changed the way in which non-gay people thought about male homosexuals.”

Last year was the Centenary of Tom’s birth and its own exhibition ‘Love And Liberation’ which was covered extensively was along with all the other planned celebrations due last May curtailed almost entirely by the various pandemic lockdowns so it is great to have this entirely different show back so soon. His other drawings are presently in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other institutions.

 The Tom of Finland: Pen and Ink 1965 – 1989 is an exhibition of finished and preparatory drawings in a range of media, including pencil, pen, ink, marker, and gouache. Together, these pictures demonstrate the breadth of graphic production key to Tom of Finland’s creative output throughout his lifetime and in particular his peak years. A masterful draftsman, Tom produced an expressive body of work that depicts masculine, empowered gay men fully enjoying their sexuality, engulfed in intimate moments of unabashed joy and pleasure. This exhibition showcases the artist’s diverse material approaches to his meticulous figurations—including sharp pen and marker linework, ink washes, as well as delicate pencil shading—that exemplify the boldness of his vision and the virtuoso qualities of his hand. With their skilful observation of light and classical composition, and their images of muscular men engaged in complex motions, the drawings reveal formal concerns that call to mind the work of Caravaggio and Rembrandt.

Tom made many of the works featured in Tom of Finland: Pen and Ink 1965 – 1989 with pen, ink, and marker for the purpose of reproduction in publications. The printed medium provided a space for Tom to produce and disseminate his fantasies in the fullest possible capacity. An important precursor for many later underground LGBTQ zines, Tom’s work was presented in graphic novels such as Trucker’s Delivery (1965), Sightseeing the Guards (1973), Circus (1975), Greasy Rider (1978), and perhaps most notably, the collection of 26 Kake comics (1968–1986) titled after the namesake protagonist—the artist’s recurring alter ego. A pen and ink picture from Kake in the Wild West (1982), for instance, shows the escapades of a leather-clad Kake in a cowboy western bar, documenting the convergence of two gay communities in an era still grappling with the criminalization of homosexual love. Tom radically hijacked traditional masculine roles; throughout the show, his emboldened and engorged mega hung cowboys, sailors, and bikers engage in couplings at turns boisterous, erotic, idyllic, and tender.

The Tom of Finland Foundation, dedicated to preserving Tom’s legacy and supporting erotic art since 1984, operates out of the Tom of Finland House (TOM House), the artist’s former shared residence and now a Historic-Cultural Monument in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

To find out more on the exhibition or to be a virtual visitor head to https://www.davidkordanskygallery.com . To find out more on the great man you can visit Tom’s House in LA (By appointment) or the TOF Museum/Tour in Helsinki or check their websites online and also see the extensive features and interviews on all of them in previous Alphatribe’s which are readily available on this website.  News on any extended dates/locations for this exhibit or the return of the short-lived Centenary exhibit ‘Love And Liberation’ we will cover here when we get News. Meanwhile our LA reporter will be visiting this 2021 exhibit and will be submitting a review shortly. 

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Written by Paul Stag

Paul is an international porn star and a long time editor for Alphatribe magazine.

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