It's now 20 years ago that Wessel + O'Connor first showed the work of Jim French. He'd already been doing it for 25 years, just not in an "art" context. This exhibition features the original late 1960's vintage Polaroid pictures he took as studies for homoerotic drawings.
While working as a fashion illustrator in New York City, he founded a mail order company called Luger with an old army buddy. French contributed his drawings of hyper-masculine types such as soldiers, cowboys, and bikers. But by 1967, he bought out his partner and under the pseudonym Rip Colt, and founded the now infamous Colt Studio. As Vince Aletti of The New Yorker wrote: "French revolutionized gay erotica in the nineteen-seventies with photographs of hyper-macho men who looked like Tom of Finland drawings come to life."
French made highly detailed pencil drawings for many Colt Studio books, magazines, and calendars, and turned to the new Polaroid camera to shoot photographs of male models as research studies. Before the 1970's, it had been a challenge getting erotic subject matter that was shot on film processed. The Polaroid Land camera solved all that with it's instant results.
Along with other physique photographers such as Bruce of LA (Bruce Bellas) and Western Photography Guild (Don Whitman), French would become a significant influence on later photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber, and Herb Ritts.
Jim French (b.1932) was formally trained at the Philadelphia Museum School from 1950 to 1954 before joining the armed services in 1955. He settled in New York in 1957, where he would live until 1974, when he relocated to Los Angeles. He has ten published books of his work; including "Man"; "Another Man"; "Jim French Men"; "Quorum"; "Opus Deorum"; "Masc."; "The Art of Jim French"; "The Art of the Male Nude"; and "The Jim French Diaries."