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‘Super Schwul,’ The Cosmopolitan and Tolerant ‘Gay Art Scene’ in Germany

by Sandro Kortekaas in Theatre, Art & Expo , 18 april 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 8 minutes

“My polaroids are simply Super Gay,” says a smiling, but somewhat shy Johnny Abbate, an Italian photographer living in Berlin and born in Naples, at selecting some of his work for the group exhibition. He is participating with five other, mostly Berliner artists.

Johnny Abbate
Photo work showing polaroids of friends, dates and fuck buddies, all with their socks still on. As “ready-mades” he shows framed polaroids at this exhibition, created from interactions with accompanying socks. It gave us the idea not to just call the exhibition “Schwul” (Gay), but “Super Schwul” (Super Gay), with a knowing wink to the free-spirited gay scene of Berlin.

Johnny Alexandre Abbate; Deep Melancholic Dreams

For the first time in the Netherlands gallery MooiMan shows the special, often melancholic photo work by this young and promising artist. Photo works PlanetRomeo describes in an interview as: “The loneliness is almost as beautiful as the male subjects. His deserted landscapes change from what we thought we had lost in what we long for.”

Johnny Abbate not only takes you into his melancholy view of our society and into abandoned places, he also lets you experience his feeling of sadness, that comes from experiences in his youth. As a problem child, he sought out these places, often destroyed places, because they made him feel safe. Below, a short interview with a young photographer, now making his break-through.


“Since I was a kid I had strange nightmares about aliens coming to take me and it wasn’t simply a kidnapping for scientific purposes. In my dreams they were kind, I was willing to go with them, there was no violence and once they took me in their starship and put me on the examination table, I had sex with them. I don’t know where all of this was coming from. It gave me inner peace, calm and the hope to go away for ever from the planet that was holding me to the ground. When I began having my first real sexual experiences, I’ve began taking pictures of the boys I had sex with, trying to recreate the same atmosphere: low lights, shadows, somebody waiting at the door or outside the balcony, bodies with no sex and a foreign shape. They were all made with an old analogue camera and I always promised myself that one day I would have to make an updated poetic version of it. That’s why I’ve started the series ‘Abductions.’ Every boy (or alien) comes with a gift related to my adolescence. These gifts are my fears, my anxieties, my doubts. These aliens show me my fragility, so that I can heal but it’s a (space) travel that will take a very long time. Adolescence is a disease that owns you forever and washes you away.”

‘Darkest Dreaming’

“‘Darkest Dreaming’ is a sort of infinite series that I will update uninterruptedly. The final purpose is to give it to another photographer the day I will die, so that it can be continued for ever. When I was eighteen years old I took my driver license and after a few months, with a small and broken car, I ran away from home. My family was really a hell. Fascist, homophobic, superficial. I grew up in the Naples Bronx, which is worse than the real Bronx, and I’ve risked my life many times for being gay. I was tired of being beaten by other boys and there was no other solution because in the 1990s in Naples, all of this was something normal. The concept of bullying did not exist. Going to police was quite useless. If you had a problem, you had a problem. If you called the police, you had two problems. That’s why I soon understood that running away was the only practical solution to survive. I saw city lights, black landscapes, highways, pylons. Metal and concrete became my best friends. And in between I met some people. ‘Darkest Dreaming’ is an homage to that journey, to remind me the places and people I saw and how strong I’ve been. PS: I never came back.”

Rinaldo Hopf, Pleasure Park

Rinaldo HOpfIn the spring and summer of 2017, the Berlin artist, curator and editor of the yearbook “Mein schwules Auge,” Rinaldo Hopf, was the “Artist in Residence” of the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles. In the House of the Foundation, the former home and workshop of Tom of Finland (Touko Valio Laaksonen) in the United States, he was given the unique opportunity to study the work process and the work of Tom of Finland in detail. From the printed collection, scrapbooks, numerous preliminary studies to perfectly crafted dimensional drawings by Tom of Finland, although post mortem, are now mainstream in museums and the art world.

Inspired by Tom’s work, the studio house with its subtropical garden and exceptional residents, as well as the immediate surroundings of Hollywood, Hopf created an orgy panorama in cinemascope format on dozens of sheets of handmade Chinese rice paper. Pictured in life-scale dimensions in Rinaldo Hopf’s own distinctive watercolor technique, gay cowboys and hippies live it up under palm trees and orange trees in orgasmic joie de vivre. For this exhibition a part of the works - in view of the enormous size - is exhibited, alongside numerous detail sheets with preliminary studies and fragments, together with portraits of well-known porn stars such as Al Parker and Logan McCree. Also, another great work, from his India period and painted on handmade paper, is shown in its entirety.

Musk Ming; Interaction Between Two Cultures

Musk Ming is a Chinese artist who has lived and worked in Berlin since 2015. His work is best described as a bridge between traditional Chinese art in combination with contemporary techniques and Western aesthetics. He sees Berlin as a liberation: a unique environment of sexual tolerance, something that contrasts enormously with the oppression of homosexuals in China. The absence of sexuality in Chinese art and the relatively open approach in the West come to light in his paintings and pen drawings in response to that freedom. For Musk Ming, however, the focus beyond nudity is always on the relationship between man, society and nature. In the exhibition he shows the interaction of these two cultures in different, stimulating works both in pen drawings on paper and in combination with photography, but also in paintings.

Hendrik Schink; A Gay Fairytale Make Over

Hendrik SchinkFor ceramist Hendrik Schink this will be his first participation in a group exhibition but not his first exhibition in the Netherlands. As a first, the CODA Museum in Apeldoorn has the honour to show his porcelain sculptures of YMCA as part of the Ceramics Triënnale 2018. The theme of this triennial exhibition, which opened on March 11, is sculptural, figurative ceramics.

In addition to these figurative porcelain sculptures, the exhibition “Super Schwul” shows, for the first time, another side of this ceramicist by exhibiting his paper cutting art. This form of cutting originated in China and later spread to Western European countries as folk art. In a special combination with uniquely made porcelain objects, Hendrik Schink shows a true make-over of imaginative, lascivious and exciting gay porcelain variations of well-known fairy tales.

Daniel M. Schmude; Shadowside

Daniel SchumdeDaniel M. Schmude is a photographer from Berlin, who studied photography in Berlin and New York. He is most fascinated by the human body - its varieties, aesthetics and its expressiveness. When he looks at people, he looks at their different characteristics and imagines how he would photograph them. Everyone has an interesting story that can be told in body language; every human form has its own aesthetic beauty. The naked body enables Schmude to look at someone in all honesty. Stripped of clothing, what remains is a pure, true performance. Playing with light and shadows can bring out the hidden aesthetic characteristics of people that are often not seen or recognized. It always fascinates him when, in front of the camera, his models rediscover their own aesthetics or become aware of them. Photography is not about perfection: imperfections make interesting images.

Photography also gives Schmude the chance to express his thoughts about social problems, to view the world from different perspectives, to be provocative. Identity and sexuality are matters that concern him. He regards photography as a visual narrative; that is why he has always tried to catch those who are still fighting for a voice, for representation. In this exhibition he shows part of his series “Shadowside”: the side no one sees, always next to us. Our fear, self-confidence, everything that might hold us back in life.

Hannes Steinert; the Educational Character of Gay Erotic Linocuts

Musk MingIn 2017, the extensive book “House of Boys” by Hannes Steinert, born 1954 in Stuttgart (Germany), was published. It is a collection of all his homoerotic drawings. In this exhibition, in which Steinert is the only participant who’s not from Berlin, MooiMan shows some of his very extensive oeuvre of linocuts, on which later this year a book will be published.

Also in these linocuts his passion for men and the love between men comes to the fore in numerous interactions. Interactions that are more abstract in his linocuts, but still show elements of landscapes and stimulating environments that speak to the imagination. Depictions that easily from a bridge between Greek culture, where relationships between men and boys could even be educational in nature, to the gay scene now.

Steinert trained at the Freie Kunstschule in Nurtingen and at the Staatlichen Akademie der Bildende Kunste in Stuttgart and received many prizes for his work. He taught at the Kunstschule in Filderstadt and at the Kolpingenkunstschule in Stuttgart, among other institutions. Steinert is an independent artist since 1986 and has since participated in many international exhibitions.

 Exposition “Super Schwul”, till May 27, 2018
Galerie MooiMan male-art, Noorderstationsstraat 40, 9717 KP Groningen
Open: Friday and Saturday, from 14.00 to 18.00 or on appointment



published Apr 2018       

published Oct 2014       


In the New Issue of Gay News, 335, July 2019

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