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FULL TEXT REVIEWS
|LARRY TOWNSEND NEWSLETTER, Summer 1995
CHECKMATE, July 1996
BEAR Magazine #37, April 1996
HONCHO, Vol 20 #6, June 1997
BEAR Magazine #38, June 1996
|LARRY TOWNSEND NEWSLETTER, Summer 1995
by Larry Townsend
The Jack Fritscher book American Men is a collection of terrific photos by one of our favorite authors.
Jack Fritscher's American Men, Editions Aubrey Walter, 1995, $29.95. Non-Fiction. Photos from the 70s through the 90s by Jack Fritscher of men in underwear, leather, rubber, jocks, boots, and nothing at all; of bodybuilders, cowboys, ranchers, cops, street trash, daddies and boys; of bears and smooth torsos. None of these men are twinkies, and many have appeared in Fritscher's Palm Drive Video tapes. Most of these men personify aspects of raw raunchy sexuality. The best known model is Donny Russo.
Other books reviewed in the same article: Coley Running Wild: Book One: The Blade and the Whip, by John Blackburn; Man Hungry, by Gary Bowen; The Black Book, by Bill Brent; Flashpoint: Gay Male Sexual Writing, editor Michael Bronski; Fully Exposed: The Male Nude in Photography, by Emmanuel Cooper; Pierced Hearts and True Love: A Century of Drawings for Tattoos, editors The Drawing Center and Don Ed Hardy; The First Gay Pope and Other Records, by Lynne Yamaguchi Fletcher; Best Gay Erotica 1996, editor Michael Ford; Penis Size and Enlargement: Facts, Fallacies and Proven Methods, by Gary Griffin.
For years, Jack Fritscher has been documenting homomasculinity on film, processing it, and turning it out to the public as Palm Drive Video. In his new book, Jack Fritscher's American Men, he has gathered still photos which eroticize this masculinity. The images he has chosen depict men in a stream of consciousness kept private by most men, namely their own sexual attraction to the male icons of our society: cowboys, cops, bodybuilders, and truckers to name a few. Fritscher's camera brings us into their fantasies; many of them are hot scenes you will long to be a part of.
Eloquently introduced by Edward Lucie-Smith, who came into the eyes of the bear community with his insightful introduction to Chris Nelson's pics in The Bear Cult, Fritscher's collection of rock-hard bodies and street-weathered faces somewhat resembles the work of Old Reliable. The difference between the two visions, however, is that Fritscher's men have strengthened themselves out of a desire to be some-thing better, exemplifying the icons of their upbringing. We are talking about men who, throughout their lives, were aroused by the strong men of their worlds and have developed into powerfully sexual icons themselves, whereas Old Reliable's young exhibitionists seem merely to be aimless boys from Hollywood's Sunset Strip.
Fritscher's attraction to the beauty and form of masculinity draws him to men removed from the softening of the American man. This book places back upon a recently vacated pedestal the physiques of gods and the determination of warriors. Jack Fritscher's American Men are what most men today fantasize about: hard driving studs who play as hard as they want and are freed by the strength of their character, ready to fuck with you physically and sexually. You may not be ready to come to head-to-head with some of them, but they will work your heads--both of them.
© BEAR Magazine & Leif Wauters
In addition to his work in photography, Jack Fritscher has been many things: university professor, magazine editor, video director, poet and writer--he is well known for the memoir of his one-time lover, Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera. In his own photographic explorations, Fritscher's focus is on what he terms "homomasculinity," and in his new collection titled Jack Fritscher's American Men the photographer portrays the kind of male subjects that most attracts him: bodybuilders, bikers, cowboys, cops, men in various kinds of sports gear and uniform.
These mostly full-page, B/W photographs (taken between 1969-95) are the artist's documentation of the underlying current of sexual competition and violence he perceives between men, something akin to the rituals of sexual display common to adult males of all species. Many of his images are true candid shots, captured in the sort of public arenas that obsess him: bodybuilding, weightlifting, boxing, wrestling. "I dare to stalk public events," he admits.
Other images portray men who have been--or are--gay icons, often captured at their most overtly sexual, as in the nude series of macho video star Don Russo. It is particularly in these provocative portraits--and the studies of bodybuilders--that Fritscher explores the way men present themselves to the camera with the full knowledge that they are being observed, admired, worshiped. As noted photographer Edward Lucie-Smith observes in his fine introduction:
"[Fritscher] is always aware that the voyeur...fulfills the needs of the one who is observed, that the transaction, far from being one-sided, is fully reciprocal. He feels that many of the photographs taken in these circumstances--those of bodybuilders posing in contests or on the boardwalk at Venice Beach--are just as erotically charged as those which are more overtly sexual. Even more charged, he might claim, because the relationship between the one who views and the one who is viewed is more complex and ambiguous than it is in circumstances where the sexual element is fully spelt out...."
A Bear: knows what he likes and knows where to find it -- in the pages of "Jack Fritscher's American Men." Believes that masculinity itself is powerfully erotic. Jack Fritscher understands that and captures it in a collection of his black-and-white photography. Printed on a rich, dull-coated paper stock.