One of the highlights of last week's openings at Deitch Projects was the sight of the brilliant artist Wayne Coe doing a charcoal sand-drawing of Kehinde Wiley on the sidewalk outside Wiley's show. I asked Deitch if he represented Coe, to which Jeffrey, resplendent in a lemon suit, frostily replied, "No." "It's too bad," I answered, "Wayne's work is better than what you've got on show," which is saying a lot, but then Wayne, born in Richard Nixon's hometown of Whittier, Ca., and a veteran contract artist in Hollywood, is very talented.
His current project, "Flesh: the Sand Paintings," commemorates, in the words of the artist, "the 25th anniversary of the close of the Broadway male porn district and the 40th anniversary of Warhol's coupling of male exploitation film to fine art marketing. Immaculately dressed in suit and tie, Wayne was just finishing up his street portrait of Kehinde Wiley on the pavement as the beautiful people arrived at Deitch.
The picture showed Kehinde as the main attraction in a reproduction of a ‘70s-era gay theater poster and is captioned, "Kehinde Wiley, Yale Class of 2001," definitely an erotic marker for arties! Coe points out that, pace Marcuse, the commercialization of porn robs it of its edge: would you rather gaze at hardbodies in the Standard Hotel from atop the High Line today or grapple with your fellow actors on the rusted, anonymous, needle-strewn High Line of the ‘70s, where much outlaw gay porn was filmed?
As it happens, I know a bit about the industry Coe fondly recalls. For generations, my father and his cousins owned two lots on West 42nd Street which had once comprised the farm of my ancestor Abraham Finch. Being a practical attorney, my Dad rented them out to gay pornsters under the logical premise that, in his words to me, "it's the only way to avoid foreclosure on the property."
All was hunky dory until my cousin Eddie decided to marry Richard Nixon's daughter Tricia in 1971. The New York Post soon blared a front-page headline, "Nixon In-Laws in Porn Racket," at which point my stuffy cousins overruled my father, selling the properties for a few grand. Do you know what sits on those lots today? The Condé Nast building. As Wayne Coe would say, "Sic Transit Pornia."
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).