ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 6/1/2022

Celebrate LGBTQ Pride, June 2022!

DATE 5/15/2022

Artbook @ MoMA PS1 presents Lauren O’Neill-Butler for the launch of 'Let’s Have a Talk: Conversations with Women on Art and Culture'

DATE 5/15/2022

'Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards' is on view at Matthew Marks

DATE 5/14/2022

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Bookstore presents the launch of Christopher Soto's 'Diaries of a Terrorist'

DATE 5/13/2022

‘William Wegman: Writing by Artist’ is NEW from Primary Information!

DATE 5/12/2022

1014 presents 'Plastic. Remaking Our World' with Jochen Eisenbrand

DATE 5/11/2022

In 'Charles Ray,' a physicality embedded in a mentality

DATE 5/9/2022

A new facsimile of 'Black Phoenix: Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture'

DATE 5/8/2022

Happy Mother's Day!

DATE 5/6/2022

Summertime Staff Picks, 2022

DATE 5/5/2022

Hot Book Alert: 'Hilary Pecis' is a New Release this week!

DATE 5/4/2022

Stunning 'Graciela Iturbide: Heliotropo 37' is NEW from Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain

DATE 5/4/2022

Rizzoli presents 'Garmenting' with Alexandra Schwartz, Lydia Brawner and Enoch Cheng

DATE 5/2/2022

Photography as a tool of resistance in 'Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists'

DATE 4/29/2022

Jonny Trunk’s ‘A–Z of Record Shop Bags’ is new from FUEL!

DATE 4/26/2022

‘Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse’ is on view at LACMA!

DATE 4/26/2022

Visions of Motherhood

DATE 4/25/2022

'Cy Twombly: Making Past Present' is NEW from MFA Boston

DATE 4/23/2022

Readers and Lovers unite with Nicole Rudick's (Auto)biography of Niki de Saint Phalle

DATE 4/20/2022

Celebrate Earth Day with the hyperreal feel of 'Landscape Painting Now'

DATE 4/17/2022

Tapping into the joy of Cherry Blossom season

DATE 4/16/2022

Museum Store of the Month: MoMA Design Store

DATE 4/15/2022

'Marisol and Warhol Take New York' opens at Pérez Art Museum!

DATE 4/15/2022

Food, art and exile in Michael Rakowitz's 'A House with a Date Palm Will Never Starve'

DATE 4/15/2022

Aquavella presents 'Unnatural Nature: Post-Pop Landscapes,' curated by Todd Bradway

DATE 4/12/2022

Spring has sprung and we're book-foraging with 'John Cage: A Mycological Foray—Variations on Mushrooms'

DATE 4/12/2022

Spring blossoms bring summer fruit in 'An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts'

DATE 4/10/2022

'Afro-Atlantic Histories' opens at NGADC

DATE 4/10/2022

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Bookstore presents David Horvitz signing new artist's books

DATE 4/8/2022

LJ Roberts: Carry You With Me

DATE 4/7/2022

Join Artbook & MCA Chicago Store at EXPO CHICAGO 2022!

DATE 4/6/2022

AfriCOBRA on our minds

DATE 4/4/2022

'City of Cinema: Paris 1850–1907' is NEW from DelMonico Books and LACMA

DATE 4/2/2022

Sandro Miller's 'Crowns: My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom' is NEW from Skira

DATE 3/31/2022

'Robert Houle: Red Is Beautiful' is NEW from DelMonico Books and Art Gallery of Ontario

DATE 3/30/2022

Bauhaus Typography, Still Thrilling after 100 Years

DATE 3/30/2022

Letterform Archive & Cooper Hewitt present 'Bauhaus Typography at 100' with Ellen Lupton

DATE 3/27/2022

'Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future' is Back in Stock!

DATE 3/24/2022

'Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child' is NEW from Hatje Cantz

DATE 3/22/2022

'(Nothing but) Flowers' is NEW from Karma Books, New York

DATE 3/22/2022

Spring Fever!

DATE 3/19/2022

Museum Store of the Month: LACMA Store

DATE 3/19/2022

Pioneer Works to launch 'PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince' at Red Hook Labs

DATE 3/19/2022

Arcana presents Richard Misrach signing 'Notations'

DATE 3/19/2022

Museum Store of the Month: LACMA Store

DATE 3/19/2022

Museum Store of the Month: LACMA Store

DATE 3/19/2022

Electrifying 'Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You' opens at LACMA this week!

DATE 3/16/2022

Embed 'Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future' in your visual library forever!

DATE 3/14/2022

Brookline Booksmith presents Mark Ludwig on 'Our Will to Live: The Terezín Music Critiques of Viktor Ullmann'

DATE 3/13/2022

'Darrel Ellis' explores the "beautiful and often tragic pageantry of everyday life"

DATE 3/12/2022

Timely and enigmatic, 'Helga Paris: Women at Work' is a New Release this week


BOOKS IN THE MEDIA

JESSE PEARSON | DATE 6/25/2016

Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

Of what utility is a review by me—a mostly straight man, as the Kinsey scale goes—of a book that outlines, from the inside and with anthropological precision, the intimate codes of apparel and persona that were employed by the gay men of 1970s America? That question is so unanswerable, at least in terms of finding a response that would satisfy each potential questioner, that it’s essentially hypothetical. So I’ll forego any further stress regarding whether I have the right to tell you what I think of this book and instead I’ll just tell you what I think of this book (as long as you keep in mind that the subject of Gay Semiotics is a secret language that was created with the express purpose of communication beyond the ken of the un-gay).

Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

Originally published in 1978, this is a laconic field guide to the flora and fauna of then-contemporary gay life in San Francisco. Photographer and critic Hal Fischer—operating in a world in which semiotics was still a thing that people talked about not just when they were high on cocaine and yearning to flex a bit of what they had learned in a mostly forgotten college course—applied the social science of sign-reading to the milieu, full to the brim with frisson and jouissance, in which he found himself living. The book’s poker-faced photos and texts, when applied to such juicy accoutrements as ball gags and amyl nitrate poppers and such complex species as urbanis cowboyicus and leatherus daddyus give the whole venture a feeling of warm familiarity, of a joke shared.

Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

Under the heading of “Signifiers for a Male Response,” Fischer breaks down the applicable meanings of earrings, handkerchiefs and keys—as well as the additional nuances of placement on the right or left side of the body. I like how these elements of gay culture, during a time when it was still forced to remain underground, found expression in codes so rigid that they approach militaristic precision. The utility of this language is clean and fast. Cut the shit; show me what you want. Wear your keys on a chain on your right side if you’re sexually passive; stick a red handkerchief in the left pocket of your jeans to indicate that you prefer to take charge in matters of penetration, and so on. Fischer, quietly adept, throws in deadpan asides here and there, such as a gentle reminder that red handkerchiefs might also be “employed in the treatment of nasal discharge,” in which case, it is assumed, their sex mojo would be nullified.

Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

Elsewhere in the book, Fischer breaks down several of what he calls "Archetypal Media Images." Riffing on the tradition of August Sander, we see representative examples of various types, such as the natural (which lies in the American folk tradition of Whitman and Eakins), the classical (which owes its vibe to the marbled Adonis of antiquity), western (the cowboy stud), the urbane (of which Robert Mapplethorpe’s Man in Polyester Suit is the gold standard) and the leather (of which the Village People’s Glenn Hughes was best known in mainstream 1970s America).

Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

As a time capsule of both gay subculture and the urge to commit semiotics, this book is necessary. It is also valuable as a chunk of sheer entertainment. But most interesting, perhaps, is the way that Gay Semiotics offers a chance to reflect upon the necessities of communication engendered by repression—as well as the opportunity to evaluate in which ways, and how much, gay men are freer now than they were then.

Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

JESSE PEARSON is the founder and editor of Apology. He was previously an editor at index and the editor-in-chief of Vice. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is Creative Director of Super Deluxe.
Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics
Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics
Jesse Pearson on Gay Semiotics

Hal Fischer: Gay Semiotics

Hal Fischer: Gay Semiotics

CHERRY AND MARTIN
Pbk, 8 x 10 in. / 56 pgs / 24 b&w.