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.
Alexander Iolas was coming to lunch [at the Factory] with a couple of clients and we needed a couple of boys to entertain. And I called James Curley and he brought his cousin David Laughlin, who works at the Coe Kerr Gallery. Iolas arrived, and his contact that he never takes out of his eye got lost, and he had me look for it, but I couldn’t see it….
“August 5, 1982
I introduced [Factory assistant] Robyn to Iolas….Robyn’s such a nice kid but he has no ambition, and he does want to be an artist, so I thought that since RonnieCutrone left and things worked out so well for him…that maybe it could happen for Robyn, too. So 74-year-old Iolas grabbed Robyn’s hand….Iolas thought he’d get Robyn’s energy. But I was hoping Robyn got his.” — from The Andy WarholDiaries*
In FALL INTO RUIN, at David Kordansky in its closing week, writer-photographer-filmmaker-curator-provocateur William E. Jones brings together twenty of his interior photographs of the Athens villa of international art dealer Alexander Iolas. Taken in 1982, they are displayed in hand-coated inkjet prints made this year. Included in the exhibition is Fall into Ruin, Jones’ 30-minute documentary about Iolas, featuring Jones’ narration and stills taken during trips Jones made to Greece in 1982 and 2016.
“Iolas can be credited with mounting Warhol’s first and last gallery show in his lifetime, bringing Surrealism to the United States, and introducing the East Coast to Ed Ruscha. Unlike Iolas’s contemporaries—who included Ileana Sonnabend, Leo Castelli and Bruno Bischofberger—Iolas’s legacy has nearly faded into obscurity after he succumbed to AIDS in 1987, at 80.” — Ann Binlot