In the 1950s there developed a surprisingly large and growing market for what can only be described as male “pinups.” But of course their real intent had to be camouflaged.
These “pinups” came in the form of little magazines with titles like Grecian Guild Pictorial and Tomorrow’s Man, which pretended to be bodybuilding magazines, strength and health journals, and sometimes, more rarely, anatomy guides for “artists.” Those who bought them, however, understood that they were a means to allow gay men and boys to look at handsome, well-built, virtually naked men. They were available in drugstore magazine racks and newsstands across the country. Certainly buying one of these publications required an act of courage, especially if the small-town drugstore owner knew the buyer and his family most of their lives. But the exhilaration of knowing that something so exciting existed so close at hand, and the possibility of owning one of these publications overwhelmed any misgivings or obstacles that stood between him and the thrilling object of his lust. So he bought it! The “Stroke” exhibition, curated by Robert W. Richards, will explore the history of the artists whose illustrations were published in these magazines from the 1950s until the magazines’ demise in the ’90s. when VHS tapes, then DVDs, and finally the Internet made them forever obsolete. An era in gay history had died.
Among the artists drawing for the magazines from the primitive pamphlet-type publications to the progressively slicker Blueboy, Torso, Mandate, Honcho, etc., and whose work will be represented in the exhibition are Tom of Finland, George Stravinos, Harry Bush, Mel Odom, Benoit Prevot, Jim French, Richard Rosenfeld, Michael Kirwin, Kent, Neel Bate (Blade), and Michael Breyette.
STROKE: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Walls
March 28 – May 25, 2014, Leslie-Lohman Museum
Robert W. Richards, Curator
Benoît-A Prévot, John Roses
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