Seth Bogart is sitting on the pale pink sofa of his Highland Park, Los Angeles, artwork studio flanked by ceramic sculptures of bondage gear. Hanging above the grinning 40-year-old musician and visible artist, who’s sporting a T-shirt for the germinal punk band the Cramps, is an outsize canvas that reads, in lipstick-red bubble letters, “Males On the Verge of Nothing.”
These scintillating works are Bogart originals. After practically 20 years on the campier, glammier edges of the rock underground with bands like Hunx and His Punx, he has turn out to be recognized, lately, as a polymath painter, illustrator, ceramist, clothes designer and the proprietor of the web store Wacky Wacko, however extra particularly, for curating a world of queer fantasy. His color-bursting installations have included a fake intercourse store, as in 2018’s “Lick.” And amongst Bogart’s most beloved items are his sculptures of gay-bar matchbooks and delightfully subversive toothbrushes, and his brash “Grrrls Do Everything Better” shirts, depicting an illustrated historical past of girls inventing punk.
We’re speaking over FaceTime one afternoon in early October on the event of Bogart’s first New York solo present — “Library Fantasy Volume I” — on view at Fierman Gallery. It presents 47 ceramic replicas of books — tributes to the key histories and misfit mental pursuits that fashioned him, and Bogart’s newest expression of obsessive fandom in an oeuvre animated by it. “Library Fantasy” opened simply two weeks earlier than the discharge of Bogart’s new solo album, which brings to thoughts the droll Glaswegian indie pop of the Pastels and the Vaselines whereas taking up themes — echoed within the exhibition — of queer trauma. That anti-patriarchal slogan on his studio wall is the file’s title. If “Males On the Verge of Nothing” is, as Bogart says, about destruction — about how “males destroy the world” — then maybe “Library Fantasy” is about creation. “It is a fantasy,” he notes. “If I had a bookstore, it’s what I’d need to promote.”
The sculpted titles vary from the enduring — like works by Joan Didion and James Baldwin — to the gloriously cultish. A “Lesbian Classics” section (including the 1973 feminist bildungsroman “Rubyfruit Jungle” and the fetish magazine Splosh!) spans one wall. Yoko Ono’s mind-expanding collection of Fluxus art instructions, “Grapefruit” (1964), presides over one other. Homosexual and punk periodicals abound. A substantial allure of those handmade literary doubles is how worn they seem: some are barely misshapen, with tattered pages, dog-eared corners, or traces of value tags. “I wished them to look used and beloved, like ‘I’ve had this since highschool, and have been carrying it round and moved 100 occasions,’” Bogart says. “I wish to make issues quick and wonky. I’m inquisitive about one thing wanting type of flawed.”
The imperfections present the method of how books turn out to be talismans. Bogart’s rendering of the 1989 novel “Horse Crazy” — a story of AIDS, infatuation and loneliness by the onetime Village Voice artwork critic Gary Indiana — reveals the duvet’s noirish cityscape to be a world unto itself. (A Jenny Holzer marquee, “Protect Me From What I Want,” alights its scene of a darkish evening.) A ceramic of the 1990 story assortment “Garden of Ashes” by the late East Village sage Cookie Mueller — who died of AIDS at 40 — finds her gazing out from the Hanuman Books miniature, a beacon of askew glamour. One other recreates the 1987 instructional kids’s e book “AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands.” These are totems to individuals who made artwork by means of fearful years.
Which is to say, “Library Fantasy” facilities the margins and celebrates inside worlds as sanctuaries. “For me plenty of it’s in regards to the significance of celebrating historical past that’s not advised as a lot accurately,” Bogart says. “So many homosexual publications had been actually unlawful. It’s cool to honor them, as an alternative of taking as a right how a lot simpler it’s these days for some folks.”
Bogart’s first ceramic e book was “SCUM Manifesto” by the late radical feminist creator Valerie Solanas. Self-published in 1967, “SCUM” stands for “Society for Reducing Up Males.” A yr later, Solanas tried to homicide Andy Warhol at his studio in Union Sq.. Bogart has made three “SCUM” ceramics in complete, and one is displayed within the window at Fierman. “I like Andy Warhol, however I agree together with her politics extra,” Bogart says. “Valerie Solanas would in all probability need to kill me.”
He’s lengthy associated to Solanas’s insurrectionary spirit. “If girls had extra energy and management, the world wouldn’t appear to be this,” Bogart says. “I don’t suppose males should die, however let girls and non-cis white males take over. In any other case we’re all going to die.”
Bogart was born in Tuscon, Ariz., in 1980, although his interior self was introduced alive by connecting with outsiders from in all places. Realizing he was homosexual, he gravitated towards punk — by the use of Kurt Cobain and a riot grrrl at his high school named Theresa — and began making his own zines, like Puberty Strike and Psycho No. 1 Fan. Through becoming pen pals with other zine writers, he met lasting comrades in art like the author Brontez Purnell, who would turn out to be his bandmate, in addition to the feminist-punk luminary Kathleen Hanna, who would later carry his bands on tour to open for her multimedia trio Le Tigre.
“I realized about politics and queer tradition from zines and riot grrrl music — that’s how I formed my life,” Bogart says. The Bikini Kill music “Distinct Complicity” — penned by drummer Tobi Vail, who performs on “Males On the Verge of Nothing” — impressed him to not go to school: “You’re already 22/Don’t waste your time at school/You would return anytime.”
It was additionally as a teen that Bogart found the formative twisted universe of the filmmaker John Waters, by the use of “Hairspray” (1988) and later “Pink Flamingos” (1972), which starred Cookie Mueller. “She simply appeared so fearless,” Bogart says of Mueller. “I grew up fearful of stuff — perhaps as a result of I used to be homosexual, and was fearful of being beat up. However she didn’t appear fearful of something.”
He had a reasonably secure upbringing, with supportive mother and father who had been a nurse and a lawyer, till the tip of highschool, when his father died by suicide. After this, Bogart packed his belongings into his Buick and joined his riot grrrl pen buddies in Oakland, Calif., the place he moved to a warehouse, dubbed Membership Scorching, with members of the post-punk band Erase Errata. To earn extra money (he had labored at Kinko’s and in telemarketing) Bogart determined to enroll in magnificence college. Hairdressing allowed him to work just a few days every week and to take off at will to tour the world — by that time, together with his electroclash troupe Gravy Prepare!!!!, which launched music with the feminist label Kill Rock Stars. They had been wild years, and Bogart says it wasn’t till his 30s, when he moved to L.A., that he started to essentially grapple together with his father’s demise.
It was additionally in L.A. that Bogart first confirmed his work in a gallery. His bubblegum-punk ensemble Hunx and His Punx was winding down, and he’d begun making loud clothes beneath the umbrella of Wacky Wacko. His buddy Wendy Yao, one other highschool pen pal — he was a fan of her band Emily’s Sassy Lime — requested him to do an artwork present at her gallery, Ooga Booga, after seeing the papier-mâché sculptures he’d made for Hunx movies. The expertise inspired him to maintain going.
However Bogart’s ensuing gallery experiences had been dispiriting. The primary music on “Males On the Verge of Nothing,” referred to as “Professionals,” is a critique of the darker mechanisms of exploitation within the artwork world, and a reminder to himself to belief his instincts. “I had this horrible expertise with an artwork vendor man in L.A. who was a monster psychopath who solely cared about cash,” he says. “Artists are conditioned to only settle for how these folks act. However I’m from a world the place it’s like: You don’t have to simply accept that. You don’t should work with folks like this.”
He doesn’t really feel that manner about David Fierman, nonetheless, whom he lovingly calls “an outdated riot grrrl.” The gallerist, who opened on the Decrease East Aspect in 2016, was a 21-year-old faculty scholar when he first noticed Bogart play with Gravy Prepare!!!! in 2004. Fierman highlights his and Bogart’s shared “robust want to protect queer tradition and honor our elders.”
“To me it’s all one story and one challenge, and it’s simply advanced,” Bogart says of his work. In some sense the bookish roots of “Library Fantasy” — how fandom creates that means, or how studying may also help, to cite one other Bikini Kill music, “resist psychic demise” — prolong again to the fanzines of his youth. “When folks grew to become followers of mine, I believed, ‘That is bizarre. What’s occurring?’ I by no means wished that to go to my head. I at all times wished to be like, ‘No, I’m the fan!’”
Amongst these youthful followers is the British pop singer Charli XCX, who asked Bogart to create art for her single “Forever” earlier this yr. She owns three of his ceramic toothbrushes, and a Bogart portray of the phrase “CHEEKS” hangs in her kitchen. “If I had been ever a visible artist, I’d need to make work like Seth’s,” Charli wrote in an e-mail. “It feels provocative and unapologetic and intelligent. It’s so devourable. His work may be very a lot akin to pop music in my eyes.”
It might appear that Bogart is ever a person on the verge of a lot, although he says he nonetheless retains his hairdressing license, simply in case. He was not particularly impressed by that job, he admits. However finding out cosmetology again at Laney School — the place he mastered the ropes of perms, relaxers, make-up, facials, hair dye and acrylic nails — was a part of his strategy of studying to fend for himself, to outlive. Bogart grew to become “obsessive about merchandise,” which he now sculpts.
And he beloved magnificence college: witnessing the explosive fights amongst his fabulous fellow college students, the clashes with authority, the chaos and drama. “It was like a John Waters film,” he says. “I cried on the final day as a result of I beloved my classmates, and I believed, ‘I’m by no means going to see them once more!’”
“I nonetheless have notes,” Bogart says. “I would write a e book about it at some point.”