TOUCH TONES

Even more in our faces, given their roots in pornography rather than television, are the mixed-media pieces from John Haeseler's "Pink Triangle Series." The series' title comes from the Nazi symbol used to identify gays in World War II concentration camps, and the artist has supplemented it with portraits of gay couples and kissing sailors. Haeseler is angry, and if viewers have any doubt about it, they need only notice that he has also included pictures of friends and fellow artists who have died from AIDS, including Paul Knope, Stan Lund and, notably, Wes Kennedy.

Kennedy, who died in 1993, is a lightning rod for homophobia- and AIDS-related issues in the local art world, where work in which he is the subject abounds. And Haeseler's "Wes Kennedy" is dark and haunting. The artist has copied the image of Kennedy so many times, it has arrived at an advanced state of disintegration that directly reflects the state of Kennedy's health when Haeseler took the photograph.

Many of the "Pink Triangle Series" works appear at first to be totally abstract. But as a closer look will reveal, that's not the case. Typically, a layer of photocopied images of hardcore pornography has been laid down and then almost totally obscured by a thin, translucent coat of gold paint. Most, though not all, of the works feature a pink triangle floating against the gold field. In a piece like "M'Angle," a scene of a young man masturbating can only be seen when the work is viewed from the side. Straight on, it looks like a geometric abstraction. Haeseler uses the same formula in "D'Angle (Bone Appetite)" in which the subject is male-to-male oral sex.

The Amendment 2 debate has brought gay issues to the forefront of local politics, so it's interesting to notice how in the art world it's the topic that dares not speak its name. Even the gallery is squeamish about the gay content of Haeseler's pieces; the press release for Repro 3 describes the "Pink Triangle Series" work as "mainly pink and gold" and points out that Haeseler both "reveals and hides" his topic--while neglecting to say what that topic is.

Raising difficult political issues is one of the things that's easy to do while working in a neo-pop style. That's why art of this kind is rarely seen in either public or corporate collections: It has too much to say. Though Bernier's and Schorr's intentions are ambiguous enough to lead a viewer through multiple levels of interpretation, no one could miss Haeseler's point--except, perhaps, the author of Mackey's press release.

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