Tom of Finland´s moved from illicit mail-order to the gallery in under half my lifetime. He´s in vogue. There was a film of his life a few years ago that I was nottoo keen on. But it was illustrative of how is work is increasingly circulating in the mainstream. And here we now have an argument for his excellence as an illustrator at the House of Illustration on Granary Square. The exhibition is small-scale but powerful, a vivid record of male desire d’un certain temp. I enjoyed it greatly: the joyous desire and fantasy expressed in the midst of real oppression delights and moves. It was also lovely to see the tools of his early mail-order business. The one disappointment was noticing that he did not have the greatest feel for colour — it looks crude and gaudy —so it´s probably just as well most of the drawings are black and white. His work has exquisite line and I love the playfulness, the joy in sex, particularly since they were made a time when such sex was so illicit and dangerous. It´s like play as defiance, naughtiness as protest, a fantasy of youth, powerful bodies, subcultural sexual morays, always with prohibition inked in, crossing the boundary of the legal, often figured and subverted.
This exhibition is part of a whole cycle that queers and interrogates dominant masculinities and should be seen in conjunction with the Beardsley at Tate Britain, Masculinities at the Barbican, and the Warhol at Tate Modern.