January 28, 2019 (New York, NY) – Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is pleased to announce MALE GAZE: Life, Legend, Legacy featuring over 200 works collected by the Museum’s founders, Charles W. Leslie and J. Frederic "Fritz" Lohman (1922-2009). This year commemorates both the 50th anniversary of the seminal Stonewall Inn uprising and Leslie and Lohman’s first exhibition of work by gay artists, which was presented in the couple’s SoHo loft during the summer of 1969. This exhibition, on view from February 17 through March 31, 2019, celebrates the vision and passion of the Museum’s founders and their support of gay artists for half a century.
“We are indebted to Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman not only for the creation of a museum unique in its kind, but also for their steadfast advocacy,” said Gonzalo Casals, Director of Leslie-Lohman. “Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman worked tirelessly to protect and preserve our community’s collective history during a time of great loss. Their contributions will be felt for many years to come.”
In 1969, when Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman began presenting work by gay artists, it was amidst the social and political upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Artists and activists in New York were picketing exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art and demanding the inclusion of women and artists of color in exhibitions and collections. This first “homosexual art fair” at the founders’ SoHo loft was a radical act as overtly gay images were legally classified as obscenity. They continued to present work by gay artists at the Leslie-Lohman Gallery in SoHo and remained a showcase for figurative male homoerotic art until the early 1980s when the AIDS pandemic overwhelmed the gay community.
It was during the AIDS epidemic that Leslie and Lohman’s collecting took on a new urgency. The founders’ rapid response in the wake of disaster led to the creation of the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation, the formal organization that eventually became today’s museum. During the course of the epidemic, the LGBTQ artistic community suffered great loss and, in the aftermath, families often disposed of the entirety of an artist’s legacy, out of either shame, ignorance, or inability to properly preserve the work. In the ‘80s, the couple often opened their SoHo loft to artists in need of care and lodging. It was during this time that the Foundation acquired many works and effectively saved entire estates, preserving the LGBTQ cultural production of an entire generation.
MALE GAZE brings together work inspired by classical mythology that uncovers homosexual desire throughout history; pop-culture-defining work by renowned fashion illustrators and designers imbued with unique traces of erotic art; artworks saved from destruction; art dealing with issues of HIV/AIDS and other political themes; and contemporary work by artists from the Charles Leslie Drawing Studio. Among the over 100 artists featured in this exhibition are Andy Warhol, Bernard Perlin, Delmas Howe, Enrique Gomez, George Stravrinos, Keith Haring, Marian Pinto, Michael Kirwan, Michael Leonard, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert W Richards, Wardell Griffin, and Wilhelm von Gloeden.
“When we held our first exhibition of gay art 50 years ago,” said Charles Leslie, “I could not imagine that it would evolve into the premier museum for LGBTQ art and scholarship. I feel so fortunate to the community that supported both Fritz and me in this incredible and important journey.”
The confluence of these events over the past decades formed the origins of the Leslie-Lohman Museum and continues today as a vital locus of advocacy and activism for an ever-evolving LGBTQ community. MALE GAZE chronicles the evolution of the Museum, while simultaneously offering an intimate portrait of its founders. Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman’s contributions to the LGBTQ community are immeasurably vast. Their cumulative support of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art represents the largest-ever gift given to any LGTBQ institution, and their collecting practices helped ensure the preservation of vital collective memory and a generation of canonical art.