The Saint At Large & The Center
ART + SIN II – REX: SEX FREAK CIRCUS
March 7, 2013 7:00 – 9:30pm
Tickets: $25 @ www.gaycenter.org and at the door.
“No artist scares guys the way REX’s work scares guys. It’s the basic difference between simple erotic entertainment and art. With [art}, your way of seeing begins to change.” – Jack Fritscher, Son Of Drummer 1978
During the heyday of New York’s leather scene, gay erotic artist REX was to illustration what Mapplethorpe was to photography. Known for his meticulous pointillist style, REX established his place as one of the pioneering masters of sexually explicit art in the 1960s and 70s when his work appeared in such landmark gay publications as Drummer, The Advocate, Straight To Hell and Honcho. His poster art and t-shirt designs for New York City’s The Mineshaft, have become icons for the sexual freedom of a pre-AIDS world.
In the early 1980s, REX was also commissioned by The Saint (NYC’s legendary gay disco) for a series of party posters, including the 1983 Black Party poster RITES IV. These posters have become highly sought after collectibles and helped establish and define a long and cherished tradition of provacative, elaborately produced, sexually graphic artwork associated with the Black Party. In honor of this legacy, The Saint At Large has – 30 years later – commissioned REX once again for this year’s RITES XXXIV poster and paired with The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center’s Cultural Programs Department to present ART + SIN – a one-night-only exhibition and benefit cocktail reception featuring this controversial artist’s highly controversial and rarely seen REX: SEX FREAK CIRCUS series. Among his contemporaries, REX’s work continues to stand out for its challenging content. He was the enfant terrible of that seminal generation. His work was always and remains extremely confrontational and controversial.
“Rex expresses the psyche of the leather culture far deeper than Arnett, the Hun, Domino, Etienne, Martin of Holland or Tom of Finland. Those artists are each singular and great, but safely gay. REX is distinguished because he goes beyond gay and dares to draw images of marginal and perverse sexual urges we may not ever want to admit to, but that we often cum to,” continues Fritschers.
Perhaps none of his work better embodies this relentless ability to challenge, confront and even scare the viewer than his “Sex Freak Circus” series. This notorious 12-piece collection was completed over a four-year period beginning in 1988 with each drawing taking between four to six months. The series, in its entirety, has been exhibited only once – for a special single night show at the Copacabana Nightclub on East 60th Street in 1992. In 1994, several pieces were exhibited in a REX show at Leslie-Lohman Gallery in Soho and again in a group show at the Hudson Gallery in 1996. Since then they have not been viewed publicly.
A quick glimpse at just a couple of the works like “Valentino The Wonder Horse” or “Stumpy The Clown” and you’ll understand why. REX definitely, as Fritscher says above, “goes beyond gay and …draw images of marginal and perverse sexual urges.” So much so that there’s a reason none of the images are published here. To see it is to believe it.
Produced in association with Leslie+Lohman Gay & Lesbian Art Museum & Folsom Street East