In the Galleries: A New Queer Vision

By Phil Tarley

Originally published on Advocate.com December 24 2013 11:25 AM ET

Above: P. St. John, early entrant

"Round Hole, Square Peg," a juried international exhibition, will be the first queer/LGBT show ever staged at Photo L.A. In a dialogue with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's current Bob Mizer-Tom of Finland show, "Round Hole" is a search  for  new LGBT visual archetypes. An invitational, curated  Wall of Fame will hang as a special part of the exhibition and will feature many top current photographers. Photo L.A., which opens its 2014 edition January 16, is the oldest fine art fair west of the Hudson River.

Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland zapped the zeitgeist of their time. They were two significant figures of 20th-century erotica and forefathers of an emergent postwar gay culture. Theirs was a world that preceded Will & Grace, same-sex marriage, and commonplace sexual reassignment surgery. Today we must look at our brave new world and first define, then design, an LGBT paradigm for a new pictorial era. In 2013 women, transgender people, and other minorities compel visibility and depiction.

I left MOCA’s exhibition thinking about "Round Hole, Square Peg," a show Paul Bridgewater originated at Smart Clothes, his downtown New York City mixed media art gallery. It sought a new visual brand. Bridgewater wrote a manifesto:
"Queer identity is not simply a sexual one. Queer artists have a perspective and an experience to contribute to society that is wholly their own and it’s a rich, and worldly one. Having been marginalized and alienated for so long has developed a unique view of self worth, self image, spirituality, and companionship."

A hunt for a new LGBT aesthetic has become a preoccupation. Stephen Cohen, the man behind Photo L.A., whose Los Angeles photography gallery has exhibited many queer artists, warmly supported the idea for a show. “The search for a new template that includes the many shades of LGBT life today vs. the old stereotypes is long overdue,” Cohen says. And so I am working on an international show for the Artist’s Corner Gallery which will be the first LGBT exhibition at photo L.A., one of the oldest fine art fairs in the country. It will feature a special invitational, Wall of Fame to hang next to a juried  exhibition. "Round Hole, Square Peg" opens at Photo L.A. January 16.

For information and to submit photographic work for juried selection visit: artistscorner.us


PHIL TARLEY is a fellow of the American Film Institute and an artist member of the Los Angeles Art Association. As an art and pop culture critic, he regularly posts stories on The WOW Report, and he writes about art and photography for Fabrik Magazine and Art Week LA. His work has shown at the Guggenheim Museum, photo fairs, and galleries both here and abroad. Last year he wrote Cruising the Archives for The Advocate, about the One Archives Pacific Standard Time exhibition. Tarley was recently appointed to a city of West Hollywood task force on public art installation. He  works as a freelance writer and curates for Artist's Corner, a bookmaking and fine art photography gallery in Hollywood.

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Mei Xian Qiu, The Lovers, early entrant. Courtesy the Paul Kopeikin Gallery

Tom Atwood, Sabrina Mother, early entrant

Jon Dean, early entrant

Arlene Rush, early entrant