Stephen Andrews, Estate of Robert Flack, Paul P., Ho Tam

Legion

June 26 - July 27, 2002


On Legion

by Andrew Harwood


“In rural Canada the word legion has special meaning, often referring to The Legion (The Royal Canadian Legion), a place where war vets and their families get together to remember the war, drink, smoke, play pool and hold 'foul' suppers. It was in Halifax (almost-urban Canada) where my fondest memories of The Legion originate - where I learned how to shoot pool with one of the dyke granddaughters of a World War Two vet. The pool lessons happened over copious amounts of watery draft beer and lots of DuMaurier Ultra Lights. I felt very subversive in this environment of vets and old timers. Sometimes we would invite all of her gay gal pals and my fag friends to have big pool tournaments at The Legion. In this setting I think we discovered one of the true meanings of Legion - a group of people in allegiance, sharing world views in an environment of indifference. We were not necessarily at war with anyone, but wanted our place in the world. It was wonderful and smoky.

“In a completely different frame of reference to Legion I think of Claire Denies' gorgeous, slow and sexy film Beau Travail. Desolate arid landscapes are populated by all types of men in the French Foreign Legion who also happen to be hot and ripped. The legionnaires are alienated and isolated from the world, defending their turf in a last strange stand of colonialism. They toil at bizarre and cruel forms of labour in order to keep their bodies buff and pay penance to the French government. They must also submit to their mean top daddy sergeant and the guys who are given the sentence of jail or army are always the hottest!

“The local band The Hidden Cameras have written a song, The International M.M.A. Mild Mannered Army, which talks about an army of mild-mannered gay men who worship each other. The Cameras make reference to a gay army at war with the straight world, in the most polite and most seductive way. This type of warfare embodies part of the spirit of Legion. Imagine swarms of gay Christian folk musicians with their guitars, angelic voices and youthful good looks marching across the nation. These folks at war with their beautiful music and lyrics will make the sexiest and most angelic of all the Christian Soldiers and are bound to win everyone over.

“In Paul Petro's Legion, Stephen Andrews extends his series of dot-matrixed paintings exhibited at the gallery last fall . Andrews' new paintings, Joe Blow, gives us shadowy mouths and cocks at delicious war, or not. Robert Flack's lush cibachromes from his Chakras Series, 1990-91, express the spiritual and sexual centres of the body. Flack's legacy of works shows the body as a site of conflict in terms of living, fighting and dying with AIDS. John McLachlin's large scale colour photographs, The Erotic Possibility of Melancholy, depict cruising paths set in verdant, almost Arcadian park settings. Although these paths are shown in alienating daylight without men cruising them, we know that they are defended at night by legions of gay men. Paul P. 's legionnaires take the form of figurative paintings sourced from pre-AIDS gay pornography. These paintings portray a relatively innocent youth culture and style of sexiness from that time period. These new larger works are a slight departure from his previous works in that they display more of the male figure and are maskless. Ho Tam's digital photographs from his series Lessons looks at boys' lives at school in Asia (Tam's primary school in Hong Kong) and show the regiment of these children's worlds. These works are partially autobiographical and present themes of alienation and innocence. The photos also subtly imply that some of these boys will join the casual Legion of gay men in adulthood. Legion honours new recruits, veterans and those who have passed on in the battle of gay cultural warfare.”

- Andrew Harwood,
2002