John Kayser

 

 

The work of John Kayser (1922-2007, USA) is unique in that it was made in secret. A lifetimes oeuvre, like so much of the avant-garde teetering at societies fringes was almost lost for eternity. After his death in 2007 his work was discovered within his discarded belongings by a collector who saw in them salvageable treasures and entrusted them to various galleries, a responsibility now passed in part to Galerie Gerhard Hofland. This world he left, intercepted as it almost plummeted into non-existence is saturated with a taut sense of trepidation and voyeurism. Within lies a captivating erotic universe with inescapable draw, but its clandestine origins leave us questioning our welcome, and their mysterious origins.

Little is know about his life as biographical information is scarce. He was born in North Dakota and lived in Los Angeles, he briefly served as an armorer in the 18th Bomb Squadron of WWII. He also attended the Art Centre of Los Angeles and the Allied Art School in Glendale California. The remainder of his story exists on a continuum of speculation in conversation with his work.  On investigation we begin to unravel the life of an amateur, outsider artist with an unmistakeable feeling for composition and total lack of pretension. His work, not grandiose or performing for an audience is indelibly personal, comprised of snapshot 1-hour service prints, colour Kodaks and home videos, likely developed at one of the drug stores on Sunset Boulevard.

Everything but a professional photographer, he nonetheless created works with immaculate theatrical sensitivity. He explored the use of hand-painted backdrops, outdoor locations, posture and lighting in a ways that evolved over time. This evolution indicating that no matter the fetishistic first impressions one might sense, that this was his creative practice. That he had a thirst to embody some internal vision within his environment, continuously delving. But who are his muses? Some models are recurring, relationships growing for years which surely precipitated an enormous degree of trust. Some presumably dancers from strip clubs, each performing on his artfully constructed stage.

We see in his work an intimacy that might cause discomfort. But on further investigations he is not only playing out taboo desires, but meticulously constructing arresting scenes: Women crushing fruit with their buttocks, smothering him, or the looming threat of a high heel stepping in an open mouth. There is both an openness and playfulness but also profound and tender trust between the artist and the subjects depicted. Both in their bold explorations of sexuality in a time that would have scalded them for it, and in the implied physical danger. Slowly, the work breaks down your unease. The longer you look the clearer the props, the scene and the play.

John Kaysers work is a symbiosis of vision and sexuality, of one’s deepest longings and craft. In studio pouring all erotic inner-self into his work in a way that could only take place free of shame and out of sight. His work is proof of the perennial nature of human desire, disarming and comforting in its historicity: in his ascending of the laws of his time, we find relief from our own burdens. In his intimate sanctuary, we might also dispose of our guilt: we see in him our own aching, and are consoled – we too might find a home for it.


2020
2020

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Biography - John Kayser

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 3-699, 12,6 x 8,8 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 3-933, 12,8 x 8,8 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 11-155, 12,5 x 8,8 cm, Original C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 11-53, 13 x 8,8 cm, Original C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 7-28, 20,1 x 25,2 cm, Gelatin Silver Print.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 7-22, 1963, 25,5 x 20,2 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 9-111, 12,7 x 8,8 cm, Original C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 3-263, 12,8 x 8,8 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 3-699, 12,6 x 8,8 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 3-933, 12,8 x 8,8 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 11-155, 12,5 x 8,8 cm, Original C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 11-53, 13 x 8,8 cm, Original C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 7-28, 20,1 x 25,2 cm, Gelatin Silver Print.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 7-22, 1963, 25,5 x 20,2 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 9-111, 12,7 x 8,8 cm, Original C-print photograph.

John Kayser, Untitled, ref: 3-263, 12,8 x 8,8 cm, Original Kodak C-print photograph.

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John Kayser CV

Born in North Dakota in 1922 and died in Los Angeles in 2007.
Lived and worked in Los Angeles, California.

Education/residency

1952
Allied Art School, Glendale, Californië (VS)

1948-1954
Art Center, Los Angeles, Californië (VS)

Solo exhibitions

2019
John Kayser – Photographs and Films, Ampersand Gallery, Portland (VS)

2016
Sitting, The Journal Gallery, New York (VS)
Women, FARAGO, Los Angeles (VS)

2015
Direct Contact, Galerie Christian Berst, New York (VS)
Rose, Ampersand Gallery, Portland (VS)
John Kayser: SITTING – Part I, Delmes & Zander, Cologne (DE)
John Kayser: SITTING – Part II, Delmes & Zander, Berlin (DE)

Group exhibitions

2015
Works in Series – Horst Ademeit, Adelhyd van Bender, William Crawford, John Kayser, Type 42,  Delmes & Zander (DE)

Publications

2017
Purple Magazine – John Kayser, Purple 25yrs Anniv. issue 28

2016
Ravelin Magazine – Gazing at the Voyeur, John Kayser at the Journal
New York Observer – How a Photographer’s Secret, Kinky Obsession Wound Up In a Hip Williamsburg Gallery
Paper Magazine – Women on Top | Print Issue
Wall Street Journal Magazine – John Kayser Exhibition Opens in LA
AnOther Magazine – Examining the Strange Sensuality of John Kayser’s Erotica
Huffington Post – The Mystery of John K. and His Trove of Erotic Photographs

2015

Brut Force – Joyful Voyeur: John Kayser’s Playful Intimate Photography
Musee Magazine – John Kayser: Direct Contact at Christian Berst
Need Supply Co. Blog – John Kayser: Direct Contact
Revista Wilco – Desnudos en los años 50 de la mano de John K.

2014
GQ Italia – Nude, vintage e sedute dovunque: le ragazze di John K
art Das Kunstmagazin – John K. – Köln: Hommage an einen unbekannten Künstler

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