|Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
The Work and Life of Tom of Finland
At Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead
The exhibition features work by Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) and incorporate artists who supported and admired his work over the years, including Richard Hawkins, Robert Mapplethorpe, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and John Waters. The presentation will also include photographs, reference materials, and ephemera.
Tom of Finland’s drawings – remarkable not only for their masterful rendering, but also their fantastical representation of the male form – have been long celebrated for their radical role in broadening the popular understanding of Queer experience in art. Placed in context with his peers, the assemblage of these artworks engages a sensational narrative, one that helped define a generation.
Tom spent the last decade of his life between Finland and TOM House in Echo Park, Los Angeles, California. In partnering with Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, the exhibition will evoke the spirit of the home where Tom had his studio and lived during his final years. In their own way, both Tom and Mike spent their careers challenging the boundaries of art and social engagement, be it through their craft or thematic pursuits. The coupling of the two Foundations seeks to highlight the work of Queer artists across the globe and carry out the mission of protecting, preserving and promoting Queer art.
|TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen)
||1920 - 1991
|A. J. EPSTEIN (Andrew Epstein)
|JORDAN MICHAEL GREEN
||1946 - 1989
|MIGUEL ANGEL REYES
Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to the screen the life and work of the artist, one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century Gay culture. The film will be followed by a Q&A with exhibition curators Durk Dehner, S. R. Sharp, and Graeme Flegenheimer.
Tom of Finland Day – 8th May
Special Hours: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm
Cake and Souvenirs: 5:30 pm
Talk with Tom Cho: 6:30 pm
Tom is the author of Look Who’s Morphing
and is a former resident of TOM House, Los Angeles.
Daddy and the Muscle Academy Showing: 7:00 pm
The MOCAD Café and Store Will Be Open from 9:30 am - 8:00 pm
Naughty figure drawing with live models and cocktails.
Hosted by Tylonn J. Sawyer.
This exhibition and programs deal with mature themes. Adults visiting with youth must preview before entering exhibition or program.
PREVIEW: The New York Times Style Magazine
Opening this month at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the intimate exhibition TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland will give visitors a glimpse of the artist’s former home and studio, bringing together over 200 works and objects. Rare sketches (including his last preparatory drawing from 1991, the year that he died) are displayed side-by-side with personal effects, like childhood prints from the 1920s, an illustrated condom packet and Laaksonen’s leather Harley cap.
“I would imagine this exhibition will bring joy and lots of pleasure,” said Durk Dehner, the co-founder and president of the Tom of Finland Foundation.
TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland
an Article in ArtForum
Bust out the poppers: Tom of Finland’s leather boys are hitting Detroit. Goons whining about perversion and pornography in the presence of his illustrations don’t know sublime weirdness when it strips for them. Classical sculptures on steroids emitting an angelic glow, Finland’s bodies have the same sci-fi sexiness as H. R. Giger’s aliens, complete with nuclear-missile dicks and flesh that looks like latex. MoCAD shows them off inside Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, amid juicy photographs, ephemera, and works from Finland devotees such as John Waters, Richard Hawkins, and Raymond Pettibon, creating an art-historical biker gang at once homoerotic and magical.
They all transform so-called trash into beauty. Free your mind and your ass will follow.
How Tom of Finland’s Celebratory, Sexy Visions of Gay Love
Have Empowered Others for over 60 Years
an Article in Artsy
It was 1988, and an image of two muscular, happy men staring at each other lustily flashed onto the wall of a CalArts classroom in Los Angeles. It was a drawing by artist and former adman Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland. He’d been invited by his friend and fellow artist, Mike Kelley, to give a lecture at the university.
Students sat rapt as he explained his seductive drawings of gay men, which had become emblems of both erotic art and equal rights since he began showing them in the 1950s.
“This was very typical of how eroticism was expressed at that time,” Tom of Finland said, in a thick Finnish accent, as he clicked through a series of his early works from the 1950s and ’60s. One showed a man sausaged into a leather jacket, standing next to a sailor; they eyed each other at a bar, pants bulging. In the mid-20th century, sexually explicit imagery was mostly banned, “but some eye contact and hints of what might happen next [were allowed],” the artist explained. “You don’t necessarily need to show a sexual action to express the erotic.”
By Alexxa Gotthardt, Staff Writer at Artsy
Graeme Flegenheimer on
TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland
an Article in Glory Hole
There is no shortage of recognition for Tom of Finland. There are dedicated books about the artist, a slew of exhibitions and even consumer products in almost every permutation. So what is there left to say about Tom, one of the most influential and celebrated figures of 20th century gay culture?
Graeme Flegenheimer, the curator behind TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland resolved this conundrum by levering the artist’s rich creative and personal relationships to present a novel study of Tom, artist and man. Realized in collaboration with Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead at MOCA Detroit, the exhibition explores the value and influence of Tom’s network of collaborators, admirers and supporters. These individuals are often left unacknowledged, but Flegenheimer reminds us that artists do not exist in a vacuum, and are instead the product of a complex web of influences and support systems.
For Tom, this included artists like Richard Hawkins, Robert Mapplethorpe, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and John Waters, all of which are represented in the exhibition. The presentation also includes photographs, reference material, and ephemera, within a space that is designed to evoke the spirit of TOM House in Echo Park, Los Angeles. We recently caught up with Flegenheimer to learn more about the exhibition, his unique curatorial direction, and which admirer of today embodies the essence of Tom.
Thank you to everyone that has come to see the exhibition in Michigan and taken these great pix!
The Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead is commissioned by Artangel in association with MOCAD, LUMA Foundation and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts with the generous support of the Artangel International Circle. Support for the Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead is provided by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.
Presenting sponsorship for TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland is provided by Equality Michigan. Generous support is provided by Anonymous, Christopher Burcham, Gretchen + Ethan Davidson, Doc Duhan, Nicole + Stephen Eisenberg, Sid Galton, Stephen Krawchuk, Jeff + Loren Gillis Newsom, Rob Hennig, CV Henriette, Colt Mix, Brien O’Brien, Daniel Parente, Stefano Pilati, Red Bull, Michael Reynolds, Rizzoli International Publications, Mayer Rus, the Shipley-Miller Foundation, Takoi, and Jon Wright. Generous in-kind support provided by Pabst Blue Ribbon, and David Kordansky Gallery.
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
Mobile Homestead Hours: Friday – Sunday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201 · Map
Phone: 313.832.6622 · E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org