See Andy Warhol’s compelling polaroids of the queer community in New York
Two of the iconic artist's series, 'Sex Parts and Torsos' and 'Ladies & Gentlemen', are now on view on the Fotografiska site.
Left: Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen/Harry Morales), 1976, right: Ladies and Gentlemen (E.M.), 1974. All artwork © 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Hedges Projects.
With many of our favourite institutions still not easily accessible due to the ongoing global pandemic, it's nice to see how gallery spaces are offering us some much welcome, virtual alternatives. Take Fotografiska New York for example, who in collaboration with Hedges Projects -- one of the leading private collectors of photography-based work by Andy Warhol -- have created an online exhibition featuring two of Warhol's major body of works: Sex Parts and Torsos and Ladies & Gentlemen. Both series consist of polaroids only and spotlight New York's queer community in the 70s.
Sex Parts and Torsos as a series actually could be perceived as dick picks avant la lettre -- but then, tasteful? It came about when a man started to boast about the size of his penis to Andy Warhol in the 70s, much to the artist's amusement. Warhol then did the only thing that is right: he pulled out his camera, took some photos, to then put them into a storage box to be long forgotten. Later, when they resurfaced, they would go on to inform some of the artist’s most explicit works. In retrospect, the photos could be seen as quite a departure from his regular work, blurring the line between art and pornography, in which he embraced a more abstract approach.
Ladies & Gentlemen is a celebratory series of Black and Latinx drag queens and trans women, including the legendary activist Marsha P. Johnson. According to the museum, the series was originally commissioned by the Italian art dealer, Luciano Anselmino, in 1974. Under Warhol’s direction, Bob Colacello, editor of Interview magazine, recruited models from The Gilded Grape in Greenwich village, a popular bar for the trans and drag queen community of colour. You can tell by the final result that Warhol was infatuated with these performers, who represented these self-fashioned personas in a glamorous, exhibitionist manner. It’s a great canonical series to visit again.
Head to the Fotografiska New York website to check out these iconic depictions of 70s queer culture.