“Choosing to step outside the boundaries of social acceptability” says the ICA’s publicity, it is a huge understatement and although there is no claim of a “first”, this exhibition must surely be one of the first public showings of many of these works by artists such as Tom of Finland, Cary Kwok, Mike Kuchar and Antonio Lopez, who portrayed male sexuality in the raw and - in the case of Tom of Finland - defined and inspired the whole leatherman subculture.
Biographical details are provided but there’s very little explanation provided but not much provenance or context; there seems to be no catalogue or accompanying essay. Whilst is interesting to see these works in a prime London space at last, surely Sarah McCrory (curator) could have provided more context and explanation than the few words of the publicity handout. This mentions the high level of technical skill and outlines an interpretation based on gender politics and challenging of social conventions but fails to make the most of this opportunity to re-evaluate these works at just the moment they would be able to receive recognition outside specialist audiences.
Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper) continues at the at the ICA / Institute of Contemporary Arts throughout the summer. Free admission: worth checking out, even though there’s very little interpretation. The ICA has an OK coffee bar too!