Tag Archive | AIDS

Modern Art Monday Presents: Count No Count by Ross Bleckner

Count No Count by Ross Bleckner
Photo By Gail

Ross Bleckner’s Count No Count (1989) is one of a series of memento mori paintings that the artist began to make in the mid-1980s. The suggestion of flickering lights in the work serves as a reminder to viewers of their own mortality, and for Bleckner — an AIDS activist — of the many lives lost to the AIDS epidemic. Bleckner engages both the formal and metaphorical qualities of light, yielding a work that shifts between abstraction and symbolic representation. To achieve the appearance of light within a darkened void, the artist blended wax into oil paint, creating a luminous surface that conveys what he describes as “this almost continual light that comes from inside.”

Photographed as Part of Fast Forward: Painting From The 1980s at the Whitney Museum of Americana Art, on Exhibit Through May 14th, 2017.

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Must See Film: Jobriath A.D.

Jobriath Pink Glam Photo by Dagmar
Jobriath Photo By Dagmar (All Photos Courtesy of Jobriath The Movie Dot Com)

Timing is everything. While being an openly gay singer or actor is absolutely no big deal at all today, it wasn’t that long ago that a gay entertainer stayed in the closet for the sake of his or her career. Rock fans who were around in the late 1970s may recall that Elton John went from being indisputably the Biggest Rock Star in the World to a virtual non-entity once he came out of the closet. His career eventually rebounded, but it took years. Even Freddie Mercury, the most famous flamboyantly gay musician in modern rock history didn’t officially come out of the closet until the day before he died. Because in the macho Rock Arena of that era, it may have been okay for the glam rockers to wear make-up and dress in drag, or for Bowie and Jagger to spin rumors about shagging each other, but to actually admit to being gay and to live the out lifestyle was career suicide. It just wasn’t done.

It is a fact that those artists who break ground rarely get to reap the rewards of their efforts. In many ways, the unique and deeply engaging new documentary, Jobriath A.D. is a heartbreaking cautionary tale about a genuinely talented and groundbreaking entertainer who woefully misjudged the commercial climate. Directed by Kieran Turner, Jobriath A.D. is the little known, true story of the short life and career of Jobriath Boone, the first openly gay Rock Star to be signed to a major label. We attended a screening of the film last Friday as part of 2012 New Fest, New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival, at the very comfy Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. The screening was sponsored by SAGE.

Jobriath Debut Album Bus Sign

Jobriath Salisbury (real: name Bruce Campbell; Salisbury being his mother’s maiden name) got his professional break in the mid-1960s, playing the part of Woof in the Los Angeles production of Hair. He eventually relocated to New York City, recorded one album with the band Pidgeon, earned a cache of artistic credibility, and embarked on a solo career. Jobriath teamed up with a Svengali-like manager, Jerry Brandt, who fancied himself a reinvention of Col. Tom Parker to Jobriath’s Elvis Presley, and the hype machine kicked into high gear as Jobriath’s advance marketing campaign saw the artist’s semi-nude likeness plastered across a massive billboard in Times Square and on the sides of buses from New York and LA to London.

Jobriath Red

Jobriath was actively marketed as a “True Fairy” – an openly gay American counterpart to David Bowie. By the time Jobriath’s debut for Elektra records dropped, everyone knew who he was, but no one was interested in buying his music. The in-your-face gay image had turned off straight audiences and genuinely frightened gay would-be fans as well. The backlash was absolutely brutal. Although Elektra allowed Jobriath to record a sophomore album, neither of his records sold or charted. Despite mostly positive critical reviews and highly praised live performances, Jobriath was dropped from Elektra and quickly slipped into obscurity. After working as a piano playing lounge singer and sometime prostitute, Jobriath died of AIDS in August of 1983 at age 36.

As an astoundingly gifted musician, singer, composer and actor, it seems obvious that Jobriath was ideally suited for success on the Broadway stage. But Jobriath wanted to be a Rock Star, and he paid the ultimate price for a tragic miscalculation of just what the record-buying public was, and wasn’t, ready for. While the filmmaker doesn’t editorialize or point any fingers, an easy conclusion to draw is that Jerry Brandt’s megalomania helped to steer Jobriath off course, and eventually to ruin his life. I wonder how Brandt sleeps at night, to be honest.

As sad as Jobriath’s story ultimately is, Jobriath A.D. is a beautiful and inspirational film. Kieran Turner – who took on this project as a labor of love – was able to locate high quality archival photos of the artist’s life, from childhood, and footage of Jobriath performing on stage in Hair, recording in the studio and performing on TV’s The Midnight Special to a clearly perplexed audience. The action also maintains a compelling forward trajectory through many interviews with Jobriath’s half-brother Willie Fogle, his personal friends such as actress Ann Magnuson and actor Dennis Christopher, and professional associates such as Rock Journalist Jim Farber, Studio Legend Eddie Kramer and music industry insiders like Jim Fouratt and Dick Christian (who, notably, cut his teeth in the music business as a member of the entourage and crew for the original Alice Cooper Band). Jobriath’s enduring musical legacy is also elucidated by artists such as Marc Almond, Joey Arias, Jayne County, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott and Jake Shears of The Scissor Sisters, who all count Jobriath among their primary influences.

Jobriath A.D. is a flawlessly constructed documentary, and it’s obvious that director Kieran Turner was 100% emotionally invested in the final product. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. For more information and to find screenings in your area visit Jobriath The Movie Dot Com. Jobriath’s music is available on iTunes.

Grade: A+

Jobriath AD Movie Poster

Must See Art – Keith Haring: 1978–1982 at The Brooklyn Museum

Keith Haring Exhibit Card

Image Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum. All Additional Photos By Me.

Spring has sprung, and the cherry blossoms are in serious bloom out front of the Brooklyn Museum, where from now until July 8th you can see an exciting retrospective on the early career of the late Keith Haring. Here in downtown NYC, especially, Haring’s humorous yet socially provocative, instantly recognizable pop art images are enduring and almost ubiquitous even 22 years after his death. I’ve always been attracted to Keith’s clever line drawings and the sense of humor inherent in his work, but it wasn’t until I watched Christina Clausen’s 2008 documentary The Universe of Keith Haring (rent it on Netflix) that I realized what a true visionary and genius he was. It seems that the great ones always leave us too soon.

Keith Haring Long Wall Mural

According to the official press release, Keith Haring: 1978–1982 is the first large-scale exhibition to explore the early career of one of the best-known American artists of the twentieth century. Tracing the development of Haring’s extraordinary visual vocabulary, the exhibition includes 155 works on paper, numerous experimental videos, and over 150 archival objects, including rarely seen sketchbooks, journals, exhibition flyers, posters, subway drawings, and documentary photographs.

Keith Haring Exhibit Crowd

The exhibition chronicles the period in Haring’s career from his arrival in New York City through the years when he started his studio practice and began making public and political art on the city streets. Immersing himself in New York’s downtown culture, he quickly became a fixture on the artistic scene, befriending other artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, as well as many of the most innovative cultural figures of the period. The critical role that these relationships played in Haring’s development as a public artist and facilitator of group exhibitions and performances is also explored.

Keith Haring Subway Art with Pia Zadora

Pieces on view include a number of very early works never before seen in public; seven video pieces, including Painting Myself into a Corner (his first video piece) and Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt; and collages created from cut-up fragments of his own writing, history textbooks, and newspapers. Keith Haring died from AIDS related complications in February of 1990 at the age of 31, but his art and message will live on forever. For more information on the Keith Haring exhibit visit the Brooklyn Museum’s website at this link.

Keith Haring Where Meat Comes From

Keith Haring: 1978–1982 will be on Exhibit through July 8, 2012 in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor of The Brooklyn Museum, located at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, which is easily accessible from Manhattan via the 2 or 3 Trains to the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum exit. So Easy! Hours are Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Thursday: 11:00 AM –10:00 PM and Friday–Sunday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Phone: (718)638-5000 for Additional Information.

Keith Haring Flyer Wall

See Additional Photos from this exhibit at According2g.com and after the jump!

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Be Freddie Mercury For One Day


“We’ve Got Your Moustache”

On September 5, 2011, late Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury would have celebrated his 65th Birthday. In remembrance of his life, UK-based Global AIDS charity, the Mercury Phoenix Trust is sponsoring the annual charity event, Freddie For a Day. Created by Liz Swanton, Freddie For a Day encourages participants to dress up like Freddie Mercury for a full day and collect sponsorships from friends and co-workers, whose donations then go to support the AIDS education and prevention efforts of the Mercury Phoenix Trust. This HIV AIDS charitable organization was founded in Freddie’s memory after his passing almost 20 years ago. Having spent the majority of my High School years dressed like Freddie, I can say that this event sounds like a lot of fun, and a great way to remember Freddie’s specialness while raising money for a good cause. Plus, who wouldn’t want to rock that moustache?

Find out more about Freddie for Day a Day (FFAD) and how you can participate by visiting This Link!

Thanks to Ivy Vale For The Tip!

Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective At NYC’s Whitney Museum

Paul Thek: Diver, a Retrospective is the first retrospective in the United States devoted to the legendary American artist Paul Thek (1933-1988). A sculptor, painter and one of the first artists to create environments or installations, Thek came to recognition showing his sculpture in New York galleries in the 1960s. The first works exhibited, which he began making in 1964 and called “meat pieces” as they were meant to resemble flesh, were encased in Plexiglas boxes that recall Minimal sculptures.

At the end of the sixties, Thek left for Europe, where he created extraordinary environments, incorporating elements from art, literature, theater, and religion, often employing fragile and ephemeral substances, including wax and latex. After a decade, at the end of the seventies, Thek changed direction, moved back to New York, and turned to the making of small, sketch-like paintings on canvas, although he continued to create environments in key international exhibitions.

With his frequent use of highly perishable materials, Thek accepted the ephemeral nature of his art works – and was aware, as writer Gary Indiana has noted, of “a sense of our own transience and that of everything around us.” Paul Thek died of AIDS at just 54 years of age ­–  way too soon to go. With loans of work never before seen in the US, Diver is intended to introduce his art to a broader American audience. Having just seen this exhibit, my reccommendation is to go while you can!

Paul Thek: Diver, Runs Through January 9, 2011 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Madison Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets in NYC.  

Paul Thek, Untitled (Hand with Ring)