The Tom Tom Club: Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland at MOCA

First published illustration by  Tom of Finland   for the cover of Physique Pictorial by  Bob Mizer , 1957.

First published illustration by Tom of Finland  for the cover of Physique Pictorial by Bob Mizer, 1957.

Utter the term 'leather daddy' in a crowded room of art minded folk and most will conjure images that originated from Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer.  Tom of Finland's illustrations (along with the photographs and publishing genius of Bob Mizer) stand as iconic gay erotica.  The publication Physique Pictoral outed the gay male gaze from being limited to the neo-classic or the dandy.   Once an underground queer art revolution that began in the 1950's would later influence the brash beauty of Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean Paul Gaultier and David La Chapelle.  It is often lauded as a predecessor to the visual movement that equates homosexuality with strength, power and of course leather.  After decades of naughty cult chic, Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer are finally being recognized with an exhibition at MOCA beginning November 2nd:

"Tom of Finland is the creator of some of the most iconic and readily recognizable imagery of post-war gay culture. He produced thousands of images beginning in the 1940s, robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys, and sailors) and recasting them through deft skill and fantastic imagination as unapologetic, self-aware, and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex. His most innovative achievement though, worked out in fastidious renderings of gear, props, settings, and power relations inherent therein, was to create the depictions that would eventually become the foundation of an emerging gay leather culture. Tom imagined the leather scene by drawing it; real men were inspired by it and suited themselves up.

Bob Mizer . Untitled [Dennis Lavia Seated in Garage], 1964

Bob Mizer. Untitled [Dennis Lavia Seated in Garage], 1964

Bob Mizer began photographing as early as 1942, but unlike many of his contemporaries in the subculture of illicit physique nudes, Mizer took the Hollywood star-system approach and founded the Athletic Model Guild in 1945, a film and photo studio specializing in handsome natural-bodied (as opposed to exclusively muscle-bound, the norm of the day) boy-next-door talent. In his myriad satirical prison dramas, sci-fi flix, domesticated bachelor scenarios and elegantly captivating studio sessions, Mizer photographed and filmed over 10,000 models at a rough estimate of 60 photos a day, seven days a week for almost 50 years. Mizer always presented a fresh-faced and free, unashamed and gregarious, totally natural and light-hearted approach to male nudity and intimate physical contact between men. For these groundbreaking perspectives in eroticized representation alone, Mizer ranks with Alfred Kinsey at the forefront of the sexual revolution."

MOCA - Pacific Design Center

Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland

8687 Melrose Ave.