Pulp It

Bob Mizer is a good photographer, an interesting formal experimenter,a master at the boring, the sexual, the banal, the aspirational, thejoyous and the all American. He isn’t really a pornographer, though his work has mostly to do with naked men working out, playing at the beach, doing that fraternal thing gay men had to pretend to do before they were allowed to fuck.

People really don’t think of the individual names of the photographers who worked for physique pictorials in the 50s and 60s, they think of the casual kitsch eroticism that exudes from the models–the two bigacademic works have the same title Beefcake (Thom Fitzgerald’s 1999 documentary, Taschens 1990 book).

What’s different about Mizer, nothing really–except he seems to bethe archetype of these kind of photos, he’s better technically thenmost, hes more clever and innovative formally and hes more daringsexually. There is the image of the man in satin trunks, where hissmooth white thighs and the rough concrete wall behind him provide atunnel for our eyes directing it to the v. obvious bulge.

This one image has began so much almost accidentally. Think of Andy Warhol’s whole career, the Golden Boys of the 1950s, the cock drawingsof the 60s, the body builder ads of the ’80s, with the graphic intensity, and barely sublimated camp eroticism, that works as both porn and comment on porn. Robert Mapplethorpe’s colleges before he gotboring, with the leather and the black as eroticised exoticisedothers. Bruce LaBruce (even if he was named after another of thesort–Bruce of Los Angeles) and his creamy, decadent photos. Ed Ruscha and Jack Pierson making gossip and Hollywood and even Los Angelespalatable for high art, what ever that is. Steve Miesel ironicising of all of these, making a simulacrum of a simulacrum, Bruce Weber making a fortune by turning the cock into pecs, and then putting the safer,cleaner images into Vogue and Abercrombie+Fitch. (Both end up in as obligatory images to hang in any gay bar that anyone walks in. )

So we see his ubiquitous children, but we do not see him. Sowhat happens now ? Culver City’s Western Project has taken his imagesunder their wing, and thrown up his first solo show–he should be at LAMoCA or the Whitney, but I doubt that he will–even with oursupposed queer friendly institutions and our embracing of low culture. This is regretful.