Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

A matter of size


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Polaroids: Attila Richard Lukacs and Michael Morris; Arsenal Pulp Press, $55

Have you ever received a gift so large, strange or amazingly tasteful that you didn't even know what to do with it? That's how I felt when a review copy of the enormous Polaroids arrived unsolicited in the mail in a very large box. By way of proper thanks to Arsenal Pulp Press, its publisher, I belatedly review this enormous tome, a photo book of 1,200 Polaroids shot by a gay artist known for his heroic, homoerotic skinhead paintings.

Attila Richard Lukacs' piles of male photos, nude and sometimes clothed, were used as models for the large-scale art works. Along with assembling a short biography of the Canadian painter, a few essays, a six-page Q&A, and a short bibliography, artist-archivist Michael Morris has arranged, with Lukacs, the series of photos in this enormous book.

Actually, it's only 2'x3' and 175 pages, but still impressive. A visual repository for almost 20 years of hot Canadian, German and American studs whom you'd swear were plucked out of Berlin twink-leather bars are all laid bare (Lukacs did spend time in Berlin, where some of the models were photographed). While nearly all are somewhat Aryan-ish, there are a few women and people of color.

Certainly a coffee-table book to top all others, Polaroids seems ostentatious at first glance, yet subtle in its repetition and formatting. After a few dozen pages, the frontal nudity takes on a casual appeal, interrupted by the clear symbols – as in one of several four-page fold-out spreads – of nude guys alternately in front of U.S. and Nazi flags. Some of Lukacs' paintings are reproduced, but too small to fully enjoy. This book is about the Polaroids.

The punk worship is not subtle, while Lukacs' paintings might give viewers an easier approach to the potential of sexualizing symbols of racist hate. Not that the series of photos isn't artistic. Every variation in the repetitive photos shows a slightly different angle, whether the model is bending over, picking his nose, or being unselfconsciously sexy.

But are the materials used to make art actually art? The photos themselves have been exhibited, and a few pages document those efforts. Whether as wall art, study material or book form, there is a consistent aesthetic to Lukacs' work. Fans of his paintings will enjoy this behind-the-scenes version of his multiple inspirations. Art book fans will enjoy the big format and alluring material.

One can question an artist's motivation, technique and obsessions. But with Polaroids, it's impossible to deny that Lukacs and Morris did their homework, thoroughly.

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