Review: 1970s gay street fashions and other vintage discoveries in ‘Photography and Language’
Cherry & Martin has admirably brought underappreciated artists like Lew Thomas to light in recent years. Now, in “Photography and Language: Lew Thomas, Donna-Lee Phillips, Peter d’Agostino, Hal Fischer,” the gallery widens the lens to encompass more of Thomas’ San Francisco milieu in the 1970s.
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Striking work by Hal Fischer applies typologies to gay male street fashion. A series from 1977 overlays full-length portraits of various gay male “types” with tongue-in-cheek annotations. A “Jock” is identified by his sleeveless undershirt and satin gym shorts, while the “Hippie” can be spotted by his long hair, sash and bells. In reducing individual men to types, Fischer pokes fun not only at the pseudo-scientific urge to pathologize them, but also the way gay men used fashion as “signifiers” for one another.
Fischer is well-represented with other works, as is Thomas, whose difficult installation “Deposition” pushes the limits of text and image storytelling. The long, frieze-like arrangement forces the viewer to shuttle back and forth along the wall.
Unfortunately, the show includes only a few pieces by two other artists, Peter d’Agostino and Donna-Lee Phillips. D’Agostino’s video and accompanying photo collage explore urban Los Angeles landscapes in the format of television channel surfing; Phillips’ photographs pose questions about the objectification of female bodies.
The inclusion of their work is a tantalizing sample of a larger scene, in particular the Pictures Generation that came to prominence in the 1980s. But without further elaboration, it remains just a hint.
Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. Through Oct. 29; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 559-0100, www.cherryandmartin.com
Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.
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