1950s Beefcake Photographer Bob Mizer Is Finally Getting Some “Devotion”: PHOTOS

Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

Unknown. Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

Bob Mizer is having a moment. The midcentury pornographer operated on the fringes in his lifetime, establishing a stable of naked boys for his Athletic Model Guild and Physique Pictorial magazine and facing public condemnation—and even jailtime. More than 20 years after Mizer’s death, though, the art world has begun to embrace him as a true master. As he and Tom of Finland are being feted with a retrospective at L.A.’s Pacific Design Center, Mizer is the subject of another exhibition on the opposite side of the country: “Devotion: Excavating Bob Mizer,” running through February 14 at 80WSE Gallery in New York, is considered the first major solo presentation of Mizer’s oeuvre and includes never-before-seen images culled from recently unearthed archives.

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Jim Carroll with Antlers, 1951. Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

The press notes explain:

DEVOTION delves exclusively in to the many recently unearthed and expansive bodies of work that Mizer produced privately for himself. A significant portion of the material serves as an unprecedented document of American cultural history, recording popular and subcultural “types” and “scenes” to emerge between the 1940s and 1990s including “nature boys”, beatniks, greasers, female and male body builders, beauty queens, soldiers, religious figures, magicians, circus performers, Hollywood actresses, gang members, cowboys, hippies, hustlers and their girlfriends, punks, new wavers, drifters, farm boys, surfers, druggies, construction workers, artists, activists, ex-cons, and would-be politicians…

Mizer also staged a unique series of photographs employing both AMG models and their girlfriends posed in abstract, surreal, and politically provocative tableaux, for which he often constructed elaborate sets and costumes. These photographs retain Mizer’s exploration of erotica; however, they complicate the functionality and more conventional appeal of the genre, instead evidencing the complexity of his own personal desires and imagination, through what is a clearly deeply intuitive and experimental process.

In addition to dozens of Mizer’s photos, “Devotion” includes slides, films, costumes and personal objects Mizer used in his work. The show is co-sponsored by the Bob Mizer Foundation and NYU, and visitors can observe the curatorial process as students uncover new finds. (A selection of images discovered during the archival process are also printed, displayed and changed daily.)

“Bob is like three or four artists,” “Devotion” curator Billy Miller told Vulture. “So much of it has been branded as kitsch and camp, but people don’t realize that it was once a subversive underground language.”

bob mizer Untitled (Marine without pants),

Untitled (Marine without pants), Los Angeles, 1973
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

 

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Beau Rouge, Los Angeles, 1954
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

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Unknown, Los Angeles, 1972
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

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Tony Rome and Ron Nichols, 1971
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

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Leonard Chambers (in flask), Los Angeles, 1950
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

 

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Untitled (acrobats with child), Santa Monica, California, 1946
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation

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 Ed Fury & Pudgy Stockton, Santa Monica Beach, 1951
Photo: Bob Mizer/© the artist and Courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation