TIME Magazine’s Incredible Al Parker Photospread
Of all the places I’d expect to see a retrospective of Al Parker, Time Magazine might be the last. Thanks, Pacifico Solano. I’d say that it’s not your grandpa’s gay porn, except that it very well might be. Ugh.
Brooklyn-based artist Pacifico Solano lost his Uncle Frank to AIDS in the late 80s. His family never talked about him; his life was a mystery. Since, Solano has engaged in several projects to help summon a gay past beyond Stonewall using vintage pornography.
I began re-contextualizing images from old magazines, found photographs and negatives, in part as a way of breathing life into the past. When I couldn’t find an image that represented my own vision, I would stage a photograph. These ideas became the basis for my project, Where the Boys Are, a series highlighting the innocence and naivety of these men as well as foreshadowing what came later.
In the summer of 2012 I received an Aaron Siskind Fellowship for this body of work and used the funds to pursue similar ideas. I specifically focused on creating a photo installation titled Pages of a Blueboy Magazine. Consisting of one hundred cropped headshots of male centerfolds, I chose models from issues that ranged between the years 1974 and 1983 (the year Blueboy published their first article on AIDS). Each man’s gaze is meant to draw the viewer in and contemplate the mortality of not only the model but also the men who originally consumed the imagery. The work had its debut at the Bronx Museum of the Art’s 2nd AIM Biennial in June 2013.
My most recent project, Male Fantasy Icon, furthers the themes I’ve explored in the past. By creating imagery with Al Parker, one of the most famous gay porn stars of the 1970s, I’ve produced photographs that memorialize and draw attention to a lost generation of gay men. The process of making these new pictures and reworking images from the past has allowed me to catalog and emphasize a neglected history, one that is imbued with my own fantasies of a place and time I feel I know, but that I never lived through.
The images are fascinating. Solano isn’t the first to repurpose gay pornography in a way that helps illuminate gay identity. Mapplethorpe pulled from the pages of Bruce of LA, and John Parot pulls from Bob Mizer (you can read my interview in Out with Parot here). But it’s a particular thrill to see Al Parker, at once sexual and ghostly.
Check out the photos in the slideshow below: