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~ Hustler White

‘There are those who will not want to miss “Hustler White” for its scene in which a male prostitute removes his prosthetic leg extension to service a client who has been shown devouring a publication called Amputee Times. There are many, many more who will want to make sure to miss it.

The movie presents the world of Los Angeles street hustlers as a titillating freak show. One young hooker is picked up by a heavily tattooed mortician who changes into dominatrix drag and mummifies him in duct tape. Another is strung up from the ceiling and delicately slashed across the chest and back with razor blades. “Cut me, dear boy!” he implores in a refined English accent.

In between its kinky sexual exhibitions, “Hustler White” follows the adventures of Jurgen Anger (Bruce LaBruce), a writer and sexual tourist who has flown to Los Angeles to research a book on male prostitutes, and Monti Ward (Tony Ward), the young male hooker he engages as his tour guide. Ward, a successful model who was once Madonna’s constant companion, lends the role of Monti a bluff, swaggering charm, even though his character is loathsome. In the opening scene, Monti, fleeing a john in a stolen car, hits a pedestrian, severing his foot, but drives on.’

(Stephen Holden’s review of “Hustler White” in the Times, Nov. 20, 1996.)

~ Op art

Like most movements of the ’60s, Op had its own politics. It proclaimed a direct appeal to the senses—anyone’s senses, not the rarefied gaze of connoisseurs. “Art is the plastic aspect of community,” Vasarely wrote in 1953, long before Op as such existed. The Op “democratization of art”—Vasarely’s phrase, the title of his 1954 manifesto—remains steeped in a “positivist” attitude toward technology, and the movement remained explicitly attached to ideas of progress. But how do these communitarian and technophile impulses square with the discomfort/vertigo question? Does the radicalization of content presuppose a radicalization of form, as it did for Berlin Dada, Futurism, and Russian Constructivism? Does the visual overload/overkill of so much Op art (Boriani’s “psycho-sensoric infuriation”), its pointed destabilization of “normal” vision, correspond to a potential rupture in established modes of social and political address and behavior? Op art stands at the intersection of these contradictions, its positivist belief in technological progress bluntly opposed by the pain inflicted by many of the artworks, and the concomitant, acute sense of perceptual and bodily disequilibrium they induce, from Riley’s Current to Boriani’s stroboscopic room. This is the true politics of Op, quite different from its ostensible program. It accords with profound epistemic rifts within the broader culture of the 1960s. Op is the nonobjective correlative of psychedelia, the promise of a realm of vision and experience beyond the accepted protocols of quotidian existence. But its potential, historically understood and as an early twenty-first-century “revival,” depends on its capacity to alert the viewer to what he is already experiencing, even though he may not be conscious yet of what exactly is going on. The pain and disequilibrium that are absolutely constitutive of Op—the way it rattles the cage of “everyday life”—point to what isn’t future-fantastic in our technocratic and media-glutted modern world. Utopian dreams brush constantly against dystopian dread; dysphoria follows euphoria as today’s hangover follows last night’s cocktails. Headache and party fuse.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Having spent my entire adult life running away from Georgia O’Keeffe, I’m coming out of the closet yes I was obsessed with Georgia as a child and teenager. The big Viking Press publication of 1976 and Perry Miller Adato’s documentary the following year, that was pretty much the only thing PBS showed in the late ‘70s, that and those other jewels the Dick Cavett Show and The Joy of Painting and of course McNeil-Lehrer. So what are the absolutely most splendiferously loony paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe?

Alfred Stieglitz, “Georgia O’Keeffe” (1918, printed 1920s)

~ Get Heroin Gia

“She scared me a little bit,” recalled Harry King. “There was something about her that made me feel uneasy. I used to say it to Way: ‘She has a demon inside of her.’” — Steven Fried, “Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia”

I’ll never forget walking into 303’s room at the first Gramercy Park Hotel art fair and seeing a big Karen Kilimnik drawing with the text GET HEROIN GIA. I laughed in an embarrassed way. It was thrilling, one of my favorite contemporary art moments ever, indelible, kind of mean but rotten glamorous. I can’t find a picture of this but it’s in a book I have. I’ll photograph it.

Gia Carangi photographed by Chris von Wangenheim, 1979.

And this is definitely the gayest thing I’ve posted all day.

~ Index

An Andy Warhol photograph dated 1984 that shows a hand pointing at what looks like a misplaced appendectomy scar. It reminds me of certain works by John Baldessari like those in the series “Commissioned Paintings”(1969-70), which take as point of departure an alleged comment of Al Held, “All Conceptual art is just pointing to things.”