los-angeles

James Gobel

UCLA Hammer Museum

JAMES GOBEL MAKES PICTURES of what he likes: guys with protruding tummies and double chins who don't fit any of the presumed ideals of gay physical appearance, be they the Tom of Finland dream with bulging chest, biceps, and crotch, the boyish nightclub urchin, or the grand dandy. Looking at these painstaking compositions of yarn, felt, and string on panels, one quickly realizes that Gobel's men are all “regular guys,” to use a dangerous term. They sleep in football shirts, have above-average waistlines, sport woolly (though groomed) beards, and wear work clothes and baseball caps. When they dress up, you know they're dressed up; they hang out in ordinary places; and though you can't see it in Gobel's pictures, many of them probably have back hair about which they're not particularly self-conscious.

How do we know they're gay? Gobel avoids clichés in favor of hints. The pair in Bed and

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