While art has long been a part of the cultural experience at the LA PRIDE Festival, Cruising will infuse queer art and culture in an immersive festival environment.
Cruising, a reference to queer meeting spaces, brings together some of Los Angeles’ most iconic, emerging, and historical LGBTQ artists. The program presents a multi-generational perspective that speaks to the diversity of what it means to be queer in 2016 and seeks to honor those who have paved the way for LGBTQ visibility in contemporary culture. With the goal of creating an inclusive, inspiring and accessible experience, this exhibition is both a nostalgic reminder of yesterday’s survival tactics and a call to continue constructing profound queer ecosystems in public space and within the art world.
Christopher Street West (CSW) is proud to announce this year’s 2016 LA PRIDE Festival Arts and Culture program curated by Nathaly Charria and titled Cruising. This year’s exhibition will feature a collection of works from renowned LGBTQ artists TOM OF FINLAND, SETH BOGART and PEGGY NOLAND, JD SAMSON and DREW DENNY, LISS LAFLEUR, VAN JAZMIN, ONCH MOVEMENT, MILLIE BROWN, and ZACKARY DRUCKER. While art has long been a part of the cultural experience at the LA PRIDE Festival, Cruising will infuse queer art and culture in an immersive festival environment.
Cruising, a reference to queer meeting spaces, brings together some of Los Angeles’ most iconic, emerging, and historical LGBTQ artists. The program presents a multi-generational perspective that speaks to the diversity of what it means to be queer in 2016 and seeks to honor those who have paved the way for LGBTQ visibility in contemporary culture. With the goal of creating an inclusive, inspiring, and accessible exhibition, “Cruising” is both a nostalgic reminder of yesterday’s survival tactics and a call to continue constructing profound queer ecosystems in public space and within the art world.
The opening of Cruising will kick off LA PRIDE Festival & Parade on Friday June 10, 2016 with a free preview and curator-led exhibition tour starting at 6PM followed by an 8PM screening of Zackary Drucker’s prodigious films at the City Council Chambers (Located in the West Hollywood Library). Recently Drucker encountered censorship from institutions exhibiting her work and CSW is proud to share her voice uncensored as part of the 2016 LA PRIDE weekend. This screening will consist of Southern For “Pussy,” “Fish,” and “She Gone Rogue.” The latter was commissioned by the Hammer Museum and presented at the inaugural 2012 Los Angeles Biennial, subsequently at 2014 Whitney Biennial, acquired by Smith College Museum of Art, and made possible by Luis De Jesus Gallery.
Christopher Street West Association, Inc. is a non-profit service organization within the Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual community, composed of volunteers committed to the goals of human rights, education, outreach, and better understanding within our community, as well as the non-TLGB community. To further these goals, Christopher Street West brings together the skills, talents, and visions of our diverse community to produce the annual Los Angeles Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Pride Celebration in West Hollywood. The celebration is a unifying force that provides the resources to promote and accomplish these goals.
LA PRIDE speaks to Nathaly Charria, curator of this year’s art and heritage exhibit, about this year’s Cruising theme, the large-scale exhibitions woven throughout the festival, and what it’s like to work with both prominent and emerging artists of the LGBTQ community.
At LA Pride, Muse Durk Dehner Talks Tom of Finland’s Popular Resurgence
Durk Dehner and Tom of Finland Photo: Jim Wigler
Meandering through West Hollywood’s crowded streets—filled with trendy boutiques, coffee shops, and upscale salons—it’s difficult to come across vestiges of the city’s queer roots. Long gentrified by high rents is a rich history ensconced in leather bars, tea rooms, sex shops, and the like. It’s a history that while obscured, is still vibrantly alive in the memory of Tom of Finland Foundation Cofounder, Durk Dehner. Since 1984, Dehner served as the official head of the organization meant to promote the work and aesthetic of Touko Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), the Finnish artist responsible for drawings and sketches of muscle-clad leather men that embody a pre-AIDS gay archetype.
Dehner first came across Tom of Finland’s work in a New York leather bar. He was immediately captivated by the explicit imagery, fetishized depictions, and idealized renditions of the male form. It was something he’d never seen before and the work pierced him in a way no other piece of art had. Though not shown at a traditional art venue, Dehner knew he was gazing upon the work of an artist keenly aware of, and able to capture, the social-sexual milieu of the era. He wrote Lakksonen a letter and soon enough the pair were sharing Dehner’s Echo Park home. It was a complex relationship, built on friendship, collaboration, and mutual support, but also fraught with the unending tensions between artist and muse.
For years after Lakksonen’s death in 1991 the Tom of Finland name fell into obscurity, buried under the weight of the AIDS epidemic and its overwhelming effects on the libertine sexual atmosphere of the 1970s. The hedonistic days of consequent-free casual sex were over. In their place a more sanitized queer archetype took hold over the community.
Yet, for the past several years his work has experienced a resurgence, especially among younger men who matured in a world where preventative medicines are readily available. With the stigma and fear of AIDS long gone, and mobile apps putting casual sex right at their fingertips, gay men are undergoing a sexual revolution. The old norms are out and new ones are established daily. For the Tom of Finland Foundation the artist’s popular comeback translates into a wellspring of opportunities situating the practice in dialogues and spaces ranging from high art to kitsch. For the first time his work has been represented by major galleries and museums like MOCA-Los Angeles and New York’s Artist Space. Simultaneously, the recognition also spawned a number of product collaborations from rugs, t-shirts, plates, linens, sex toys, postage stamps, and even coffee.
Recently, they’ve collaborated with LA Pride for the festival’s art fair, entitled Cruising, curated by Nathaly Charria. While initial plans for the festival were met with a fair share of controversy from the local community, the organizers are unperturbed in their mission to queer public space, an endeavor deeply tied to Tom of Finland’s core guiding principles. On the eve of the festival I sat down with Dehner at the foundation’s Echo Park home to get his perspective on how the organization, and the art it supports, sits in the ever shifting dynamics of contemporary gay life.
June 10 - 12, 2016
West Hollywood Park, West Hollywood, CA · Map