From top: William E. Jones, The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography, 1998, still, courtesy the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; Brontez Purnell, courtesy the artist; Nguyen Tan Hoang, courtesy the author; Mariah Garnett, Encounters I May or May Not Have Had with Peter Berlin, 2012, still, courtesy the artist; Tony Ward in Hustler White (1996), written and directed by Bruce LaBruce and Rick Castro, courtesy the artists.
“Growing up, I always assumed every store had an over-18 section. It was only when I got older that I realized my parents were in the business of hardcore gay porn. This was a completely strange thing for me, because this was not the world I knew to be of my parents: straight-laced, boring, and in my mom’s case, religious. The world of sexual deviants, gender nonconforming transgressives and weirdos, that was my world, not theirs…
“And yet, it took me leaving Los Angeles for over a decade to fully comprehend what a massive role their two Circus of Books stores served for the community. It took making a documentary film to realize that they had nurtured a second family to the family they had at home. They had carved out their own special place as trusted shop owners who never judged anyone who showed up in their surreptitious aisles, even as the rest of the world cast down condemnation, to say nothing of other parents at our school. As the store was closing last week, a Vietnam veteran walked through the doors and stood, unmoving in front of the register. My mom had protested against Vietnam, and she proceeded to tell him how terrible the Vietnam War was, and he looked at her and said, ‘Thank you. This store is part of my history, and some of the best years of my life happened here.’ ” — Rachel Mason, producer and director,Circus of Books*
The original Circus of Books—called “Book Circus”—opened in West Hollywood in 1967, followed by the Silver Lake location at Sunset Junction. An exhibition celebrating the communal culture and backrooms of Karen and Barry Mason‘s adults-only emporiums—fifty years of getting off—is now on view in Manhattan.
The show—curated by David Fierman with Rachel Mason—features artwork by Wilder Alison, Ron Athey, Adam Baran, Bengala, Erik Bergrin, Michael Bilsborough, RaynesBirkbeck, Seth Bogart, Chris Bogia, Kathe Burkhart, Deric Carner, Chivas Clem, Scott Covert, Vaginal Davis, Anne Doran, Thomas Dozol, Zackary Drucker, Ruben Esparza, Tom of Finland, Karen Finley, Benjamin Fredrickson, ektor garcia, Mariah Garnett, Mark Golamco, Jeff Grant, Michelle Handelman, Charles Hovland, Scott Hug, David Hurles, Stephen Irwin, William E. Jones, Wayne Koestenbaum, Mike Kuchar, Bruce LaBruce, Dawn Mellor, Lucas Michael, Billy Miller, Bob Mizer, David Mramor, Narcissister, Dominic Nurre, Mel Ottenberg, Jack Pierson, Breyer P-Orridge, Pre-Echo Press, Fay Ray, Mariah Robertson, Dean Sameshima, Stuart Sandford, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Margie Schnibbe, Michael Stipe, Chris E. Vargas, Mark Verabioff, Jan Wandrag, Karlheinz Weinberger, Jimmy Wright, and Dorian Wood.
From top: Vaginal Davis, Ascyltos of the Satyricon, 2016, ink on paper; Dominic Nurre, ValeofCashmereHead, 2017–19, coconut shell, coconut oil, salt lick, and acrylic; David Mramor, PinkStar, 2019, oil, acrylic, and inkjet on canvas; Wayne Koestenbaum, David at Leisure, 2019, oil and graphite on canvas paper; Lucas Michael, G5CR, 2017, neon; Dawn Mellor, Southend Beach, 2013, oil, Tipp-ex, and marker pen on linen; Jimmy Wright, Griffith Park, LA, 1973, graphite and charcoal on graph paper; Seth Bogart, Faggots, 2019, ceramic; Mike Kuchar, Liquid Dreams, circa 1980s–1990s, pencil, pens, felt pens, and ink on paper; Scott Hug, Untitled (STH_PW_003), 2018, collage; Jeff Grant, Snow and Holes, 2018, archival inkjet print, staples, and clearlay; Karen Finley, dickless, 2018, ink on paper. Images courtesy the artists and Fierman gallery. Special thanks to David Fierman and Rachel Mason.
Join filmmakers Marvin Astorga, Mariah Garnett, Aimee Goguen, Young Joon Kwak, Brontez Purnell, Jill Reiter, and Michael Robinson as Dirty Looks celebrates eight years of transgression with an evening of screenings.
Featured films include Purnell’s 100 BOYFRIENDS MIXTAPE (THE DEMO), Reiter’s FRENZY, Robinson’s ONWARD LOSSLESS FOLLOWS, Goguen’s TONGUE JOB, Garnett’s ENCOUNTERS IMAY OR MAY NOT HAVE HAD WITH PETER BERLIN, and Warren Sonbert and Wendy Appel’s AMPHETAMINE.
The night will end with a reception and DJ set by Discostan.
From top: Mariah Garnett,s Peter Berlin in Encounters I May or May Not Have Had with Peter Berlin (2012), (2); Warren Sonbert and Wendy Appel, Amphetamine (1966); Michael Robinson, Onward Lossless Follows (2017).
“WITH IT WHICH IT AS IT IF IT IS TO BE, a new film by Eve Fowler, rises and falls to the tune of this line, written by Gertrude Stein in her 1910 short story “Many Many Women.” [The 33-minute 16mm film] is a lovingly made collective portrait of female artists at work in the studio….Fowler has directed her camera, through the cinematography of the artist and filmmaker Mariah Garnett, toward the intimate spaces of women’s art work. The film’s title is a line from Stein’s text which is read as voiceover by eight writers and artists….[each lending] a personal tone and inflection to the text, accentuating the subjective dimension of each artist’s individual labor and technique.
“WITH IT WHICH IT AS IT IF IT IS TO BE documents the practices of over twenty artists based primarily in Los Angeles and New York, paying special attention to their process, their work with materials, their contemplative approaches, their manipulations. Shots cut from one studio to the next, and oscillate between focused close-ups of process-based activities and more casual portraits, where an atmosphere of trust and friendship clearly lies behind the screen. In one, the sculptor DaphneFitzpatrick walks around her studio, a dog in tow—the feel is familiar, the portrait honest. In another, the painter Nicole Eisenman climbs atop a wooden scaffold to reach the upper portion of her large-scale canvas. There, she picks from an array of brushes before getting to work on one of her own complex, group portraits, which turns scenes from the everyday into the stuff of contemporary history painting. In yet another, the choreographer Taisha Paggett performs movement work as the camera attentively follows the gestures and modulations of her expressive body.” — RachelValinsky*
WITH IT WHICH IT AS IT IF IT IS TO BE, Thursday, July 27, at 7 pm.
MOCA GRAND AVENUE, 250 South Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.
*Rachel Valinsky is an independent curator, writer, and translator, and the quote here is from her review originally published in Millennium Film Journal, Issue 65, Spring 2017. Valinsky is the translator of Whites Jews and Us: Toward a Politics of Revolutionary Love by Houria Bouteldja (with a foreword by Cornel West), which Semiotext(e) will publish as part of their Intervention Series in September, 2017.