David Leddick's 'Gorgeous Gallery'
By Jerry Portwood
David Leddick may be 82 this year, but you would never know it from his prolific output of books (he now has 22 and counting), plays, a blog, and other numerous projects. The man just doesn't want to stop!
"I've just written a book called Sexercise at 70," he explained on a recent summer day at Isabella's, a restaurant in New York City's Upper West Side. "When you live in Miami Beach you get tired of hearing people talk about what they are going to do, and they never do it. So if I have an idea, I have to do it."
In two days he would present a staged reading of his new musical, Rentboy, which is based on his book Escort: 40 Profiles with Photographs of Men Who Sell Sex.
I first came across his work when I was still a teenager in the 1990s when his Pioneering Male Nudes first appeared. It was Leddick's first nude male book, and it was a revelation to me. The first time I had heard of George Platt Lynes, the sexy portraiture kept me entranced for years to come.
Leddick's latest compendium, titled Gorgeous Gallery, is an unusual collection of paintings and drawings (you won't find any photography in this one). Published by Europe's Bruno Gmunder, it's more than just homoerotic art. Doing something quite radical (and certain to piss off art historians), Leddick has collected both fine art and "pornographic" art (in his own words) together to break down the barriers between the two. "A lot of classic art was very sexual," Leddick says. "Pornography is defined as exciting you sexually, and this stuff from the Renaissance, it was homoerotic. It wasn't for ladies."
An unusual organization—Contemporary, Avant-Garde, Classics (in that order)—may seem confusing at first, but Leddick explains it was the choice of the publisher, not his own. "I would have put it in historical, chronological order," says Leddick.
Ultimately it's about the works chosen, which include blue chip names (Andy Warhol, David Hockney) as well as virutual nobodies. Ever hear of Reniel Diaz? Probably not, but you should.
"I don't care what's going on sexually, but is it art?" Leddick says. "A lot of cartoony stuff is sexual, but it's not very good. So we said, 'Yeah, this guy can really draw. Yes.' "
Leddick has managed to locate and include 13 pieces that have been exhibited over the past couple of decades at Leslie-Lohman (now a museum), but had not been collected and could have been lost if they had not been selected and shown here.
While you won't see such standards as Tom of Finland ("I don't really like it," Leddick admits bluntly. "All those strapping guys with big penises...I don't mind sexual fantasy, but it ought to link back so that you could actually do it. It's completely fantasy."), the fact that emerging artists like Gio Black Peter are being shown alongside such well-known quantities as Don Bachardy (known to many as Christopher Isherwood's widower) is quite a refreshing idea. It will serve as a primer for a whole new generation, and a resource to many others who are looking for inspiration.
While we can't show some of the best work here (for risk of offending)—such as the drawings by Paul Cadmus that have never before been published (that show full penetration and self-fellatio), which Leddick obtained from the Kinsey Institute Archives ("Nobody goes there," Leddick explains)—we have included a few key pieces that will get you interested in seeing the rest of the book.