In a recent conversation for this magazine, author Samuel R. Delany discusses the bygone era of cruising in New York, remembering with the artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase about the time when the metropolis was a garden of earthly delights and anonymous sex. Delany remembers the city’s porn theaters, piers and bars where illicit and passionate bonds were forged between new friends and strangers before the AIDS epidemic and the internet began. Over time and technology, these physical spaces have mostly been replaced by apps like Grindr and Scruff, where verification of sexual partners seems to depend more on preference than proximity.
In a new series called “The Lovers”, the artist Auguste Wibo constructs cheeky, three-dimensional portraits that speak to the physicality in your face that was once a staple of IRL cruising. Galvanized by the Arte Povera movement, Wibo tells us he’s drawn to simple “everyday materials” like silicone, wood, and stretch fabrics to construct provocative phallic works that protrude from their frames. Each piece is named after an ancient Greek or Roman figure (such as “Dante” and “Apollo”), but the artist claims that such titles derive more from vanity than from any direct historical inspiration. That’s because Wibo wants audiences to revel in the intrigue and sexual promise that each work inspires, rather than trying to guess the muse behind every erection.
“Who are Hector, Maximus and Ares?” The real motivation, in the end, is not the secret, but the desire. Are we not all inherently more drawn to something that we can imagine, but cannot fully see or understand? ” Wibo said. Like his “Lovers” series, the artist’s origins are also shrouded in mystery. “Auguste Wibo” is a nickname coined by the creator to protect his true identity. In his oscillation between obscurity and fascination, Wibo’s artistic beginnings seem to suggest that the cruising spirit is making a comeback.– if only in the form of art.