Beauty, sex and gay love: the drawings of Larry Stanton

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A new book of the American artist’s work depicts “a family of handsome gay men living together and sharing their love for beauty, for art and for sex,” says Stanton’s executor, Arthur Lambert


larry stanton was a portrait painter, drawing and painting close friends, relatives, and encounters he picked up in Manhattan’s gay bars. His work has caught the attention of the art world, appearing in various group exhibitions and showing PS1 (now part of MoMa) – one of America’s premier spaces for showcasing new talent. “People make their own face,” wrote David Hockney, “and Larry knew that instinctively.” But in 1984, Larry Stanton died tragically, at the age of 37, of AIDS.

“He tried to think of something that would make me remember him,” recalls Arthur Lambert, Stanton’s lover and mentor, now 86, and Stanton’s executor: “‘I know ‘, he said. ‘Think of me when it thunders.'” Now, in accordance with his wish, the cult interiors magazine Apartment published a new book of Stanton’s work named after this quote: Think of me when it thunders. A selection of portraits, still lifes, line drawings and photographs made between 1977 and 1984, this is the first book on Stanton in 36 years.

“It’s not a conventional art book,” says Fabio Cherstich, theater director, set designer and co-editor of the book with Lambert. “It’s a diary, a memoir. Arthur is the narrator. Until the last two years, there had been no retrospectives, no personal exhibitions. The first was at the Apalazzo gallery in Brescia, Italy, in 2020. Then at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in Chelsea, New York. The next show will be in London in July. The idea of ​​having another publication, after all this time, was to give another point of view, not only on the work, but also on his life, his entourage of friends.

Stanton’s friends include Hockney, who became his “close friend” and chief inspiration after the pair met in 1968. There is Henry Geldzahler, curator of contemporary art at the Met, described as “the most powerful and controversial conservative in the world.” And then there are the parties – thrown for Iris Murdoch, WH Auden, Liberace – which involved dancing in large open halls overlooking LA. In 1983, Stanton’s circle widened to include Robert Mapplethorpe, Christopher Isherwood, William Burroughs and the dancers of the Royal Ballet. They became his inspiration: a stream of gay artists and writers making art about being gay.

Stanton studied Picasso, Hockney and Matisse, but his hard work is hidden. His creations are informal, instinctive, light and serene. Stanton also had an innate gift for color: his masterpieces are the drawings, which are mixtures of Swiss pencil, pencil and pastel. They rival Matisse, in the orange of a chin, the blue of an eyelid, the yellow of an ear. Like paper masks, they may be the way a child sees; genius, wrote Baudelaire, is “childhood rediscovered at will”.

“I hope when you read this book, you step into something that’s private, but also full of joy,” Cherstich says. “What I like about Arthur is that there is no melancholy. In the history of art, a whole generation of artists is missing. And they had a very precise idea of ​​the family. It is a family of handsome gay men living together and sharing their love for beauty, art and sex. The idea of ​​publishing this book is to make this work last forever. We have a responsibility, as as the next generation, to make this memory survive.

Larry Stanton: Think of me when it thunders will soon be available on Apartamento online shop.

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