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Gay Art: It’s More Than Just Men Having Sex! May 6, 2009

Posted by leskanturek in Art History, Political and Social Art, Student Post.
Tags: , , , , ,

Post by Evan Turk

In my research for my semester final project of creating posters about the gay rights movement, I searched for inspiration from other artists who had created political and social art related to the gay community.  What I found, is that there is not as much to be found as one might expect.  Most “gay art” falls into the realm of the erotic and very little else falls outside of that.  There is no shortage of famous gay artists (Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Jean Cocteau, Paul Cadmus, David Hockney, Francis Bacon), though most of them were closeted. For the most part, any gay-themed art they created was focused on eroticism.

A prominent gay artist who was extremely influential in gay history in America is Keith Haring. Haring was a prominent artist in the 80’s and 90’s in New York City who created simple and largely symbolic work in the vein of pop art and graffiti art. As a victim of AIDS himself, Haring created many of the images that are still used today for AIDS prevention groups as well as gay organizations.  An interview with Keith Haring by David Sheff for Rolling Stone (Aug. 1989) can be found at Haring.com as well as an art database.


haringuntitled1(Top) “Silence = Death”  “Ignorance = Fear”  (Bottom)“Untitled” (All images copyright the Keith Haring Foundation)

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Another artist that gives an interesting illustration of gay life is J. C. Leyendecker. Leyendecker was an American illustrator in the 20th century known for his fashion advertisements and illustrated covers of the Saturday Evening Post, preceding Norman Rockwell’s reign at the magazine. His work, which  is all commercial work, has a rather subtle (or other times not so subtle) gay undertone.  In a few paintings, at first glance it seems to be a few sailors looking flirtatiously at a young woman, but upon closer inspection, the men actually appear to be looking at each other  with her just kind of standing in the way.


(Above) Arrow Collars and Shirts advertisement (1907)


(Above) The House of Kuppenheimer Advertisement (1918)


(Above) “Kuppenheimer Advertisement – Good Team Work”

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Perez is an artist born in 1965 and raised in Jerusalem.  He now lives in Tel-Aviv and creates work that often deals with homosexual themes and relationships.  As stated on his website “His paintings put to test the boundaries between eroticism and art, while characterizing gay relationships and love as they are expressed in everyday life.”  Although his work contains mostly male nudes, the subject matter is often non-erotic.  He depicts family scenes and everyday life for gay couples, instead of just the sexual aspects of a gay relationship.


(Above) Untitled


(Above) Gay Wedding


(Above) Gay Daily Life courtesy of http://www.gaypaintings.com

As homosexuality becomes more accepted in modern culture, there will be less sexual repression and most likely, less of an emphasis on only erotic art.  This leaves the door open for a different step in the gay art movement.



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