by Jim Nintzel
Legendary erotica photographer Eric Kroll has curated a special Valentine's Day show at the new Exploded View Gallery/MicroCinema.
You won't see any of Kroll's work, although the photographer himself will be on hand for the opening of Unobtainable on Friday night. Instead, you'll find pieces from a collection of photos of women with long hair, painstakingly assembled by one of Kroll's New York City friends who "just had a jones for women's hair."
The show includes photographs, collages made from comics and Hollywood stills and a film of long-haired women shot in Washington Square Park and Coney Island, according Kroll.
"Arthur's obsession with women's hair is a form of love and it's Valentine's Day," Kroll tells The Range. "I wanted to broaden the sense of love because Arthur sees things uniquely and in his work, his obsession makes his work artful. It's a different way of looking at love."
Thy Odd Birds will be performing and there will be all manner of fun, so stop on by anytime after 7:30 at Exploded View, 197 E. Toole Ave. Admission is just $5. If you can't make it Friday night, the show will continue through Sunday, Feb. 16. For more info, call 520-366-1573.
Here's Kroll's story behind the show:
Arthur never tried to make art. Nor was he a photographer. Yet some of his photographs in Washington Square park make me think of Cindy Sherman’s early cinema stills or Walker Evans in Cuba in the 1940’s or Robert Frank’s The Americas.
He was a physique model and part-time messenger who was obsessed with women’s long hair. In the late 1950s and early ’60s he spent his weekends in Washington Square Park or the beach at Coney Island, taking photographs and film of women he didn’t know.
He lived just north of Times Square on the Westside and regularly browsed the many magazine stores for comics of women in distress and movie magazines of starlets like his favorites: Veronica Lake, Anita Ekberg and Pier Angeli. He’d return to his railroad apartment and cut out everything but the good parts (women and their hair) and paste them onto three-hole-lined paper and put these into albums. He did this for decades and then, in 1990, I showed up.
Rather, Arthur read an article in a downtown rag on my collecting Betty Page images and more. He called and asked if I wanted to buy Betty Page images from him. He’d come to my studio on Park and 28th Street in mid-Manhattan with a ménage of paper collectibles. I bought everything.
It took me years to realize the extent of his obsession. I began to visit him at his apartment and buy. Even into his 60s, there were certain photos he would not part with. I moved to San Francisco in 1994 and just before I left, he offered me his 8mm and super 8mm porno collection. I politely turned him down. “Even for 10 cents each?" They reside in my library with the 1,000 non-porn vhs tapes I own.
Every so often, an oversized envelope would arrive with treasures. Among these were 1950s photos stamped “Stan’s Photos,” Redland, California…b&w photos of mostly homely women with hair grown down to the ground! Or rare Irving Klaw bondage shots. It didn’t seem to matter to Arthur—as long as the women had long hair, he’d add it to his collection.
My kids are fully grown and live in Brooklyn and this past October I went back, but first called Arthur. I wanted to take him to lunch and interview him AND buy anything he still had for sale. He was delighted that I was interested in him and asked if I had a truck. I could have everything remaining at NO cost!
When I got to his apartment and reintroduced myself to his cats I asked him if I could have any film he shot. I think I was referring to his photographs but he misunderstood and climbed his latter to the top shelf of his chaotic bookcase and brought down two tins of 8mm film he had shot fifty years before! And color slides encased in metal. And rare copies of Wink and Titter with Peter Driben cover art.
Richard at Centric Photo on Pima pointed out the tiny kodachrome slides by Arthur were shot with an Olympus Pen F (half frame) camera and very rare.
Things change. I assumed I could dupe Arthur’s slides and project the dupes I made for this exhibition but no one, not even in LA, does slide duping. Like the disappearance of the American buffalo. Overnight gone.
Was Arthur a stalker? Did he have aspects of the character Terance Stamp plays in The Collector? I don’t think so. I asked him if he ever approached these women and he smiled and said back in the 1950s men who worked out in the gym were considered freaks and he never approached a woman.
All great perverts have their stash and mine is on my Mac. I choose not to have internet at home or else I’d be collecting porn off tumblr all nite long.
He kept the photos he shot and the film he made for over fifty years. I offered to introduce him to some long-haired women I knew that lived nearby and he again smiled and declined. His reality of women remains a world of fantasy.
All good art stems from lust