It's now 20 years ago that Wessel + O'Connor first showed
the work of Jim French. He'd already been doing it for 25 years, just
not in an "art" context. This exhibition features the original
late 1960's vintage Polaroid pictures he took as studies for homoerotic
While working as a fashion illustrator in New York City,
he founded a mail order company called Luger with an old army buddy.
French contributed his drawings of hyper-masculine types such as soldiers,
cowboys, and bikers. But by 1967, he bought out his partner and under
the pseudonym Rip Colt, and founded the now infamous Colt Studio.
As Vince Aletti of The New Yorker wrote: "French revolutionized
gay erotica in the nineteen-seventies with photographs of hyper-macho
men who looked like Tom of Finland drawings come to life."
French made highly detailed pencil drawings for many
Colt Studio books, magazines, and calendars, and turned to the new
Polaroid camera to shoot photographs of male models as research studies.
Before the 1970's, it had been a challenge getting erotic subject
matter that was shot on film processed. The Polaroid Land camera solved
all that with it's instant results.
Along with other physique photographers such as Bruce
of LA (Bruce Bellas) and Western Photography Guild (Don Whitman),
French would become a significant influence on later photographers
such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber, and Herb Ritts.
Jim French (b.1932) was formally trained at the Philadelphia
Museum School from 1950 to 1954 before joining the armed services
in 1955. He settled in New York in 1957, where he would live until
1974, when he relocated to Los Angeles. He has ten published books
of his work; including Man; Another
Man; Jim French Men; Quorum;
Opus Deorum; Masc.; The
Art of Jim French; The Art of the Male Nude;
and The Jim French Diaries.
Autographed copies of his newest monograph, Tinker,
Tailor, Soldier, Sailor: Polaroids by Jim French from Antinous
Press are available for purchase from the gallery for $75.00 (Hardcover,
144 pages, 9.75 x 7.5").