For the final show at it’s DUMBO location, Wessel + O’Connor
has returned to an artist who perfectly exemplifys the gallerys
long-term commitment to the male figure, Bruce of Los Angeles. Born
Bruce Bellas in 1909, he was a chemistry professor from Nebraska
who would wind up in Los Angeles as the top "Beefcake"
photographer of the 1950's.
He started out there in the 1940's, shooting bodybuilding contests
and met many of his models while working for Joe Weider's muscle
magazine empire, which chronicled the physical culture movement
sweeping across America following WWII. Bellas photographed some
of the most important figures of this era; bodybuilders Steve Reeves,
Ed Fury, and George Eiferman, as well as models such as Joe Dallesandro,
Mark Nixon, and Brian Idol.
By the 1960s had succeeded in publishing his own magazine, The Male
Figure, which allowed clients to order prints of their favorite
models. His love of travel would coincide with his delivery nationwide
of the then outlawed frontal nudes so ubiquitous today. As writer
and publisher Robert Mainardi put it, his purist esthetic "would
one day be recognized for its classic elegance, Hollywood glamour,
and camp wit, as well as for its restrained sensuality." His
influence on many future generations of photographers such as Herb
Ritts and Bruce Weber cannot be denied. He died in 1974, leaving
behind one of the most com- prehensive photo archives of the time.
Our exhibit will feature vintage black and white images produced
by Bruce Bellas himself.
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