‘The Last Cowboys’ at once continues Eva Gold‘s questioning of that all-American archetype’s inherent contradictions, and introduces another subcultural staple that exists at a comparably contested cultural crossroads, the leather jacket. A shiny steel Stetson and latex lasso (the latter complete with hoop earrings retrieved from the defiled floors of nightclub toilets), exhibited recently at Moarain House, exemplify that heteronormative icon of mythic masculinity’s increased cooption by the queer community. The Marlboro Man cigarette mascot that once ruggedly rode Richard Prince’s repurposed promotional posters has made way for Brokeback Mountain’s homosexuality sheep-herders, Tom of Finland’s erotic illustrations or Jim French’s fetishised photography and contemporary musicians such as Orville Peck, the queer country singer whose cowboy caricature aids his anonymity, and Lil Nas X, whose all pink ensemble at the 2020 Grammy Awards mixed cowpoke couture with buckled bondage-wear. Meanwhile, the leather jacket, a firm favourite of greasers, biker gangs, mobsters and metalheads, is already imbued with notions of performative power dynamics and mock-machismo, as well as established associations with the leather bar scene, sexual kink and leather fetishism.
Gold regularly returns to subject matter and materials that conjure connotations to kink, fetish-wear and BDSM practices, and the manual manipulation reacquired to render from rubber roofing membrane the replica leather jackets that line Ginny on Frederick, the painful painstaking stitching of such a stubborn unmalleable medium, simulates self-imposed masochism. Attention to olfactory elements is too indicative of the artist’s practice, and so the pungent smell of rubber permeates the space, tapping into our strongest sense-memory as it pervades each visitor’s nostrils with a scent profile where smoke, sex and sweat seem to coalesce.
Many of Gold’s artworks are figurative yet figure-less, with bodies conspicuous by their absence. Here the huddle of well-hung jackets imply a missing mass of men, perhaps paying a visit to the male-only sex club sketched by Gold in a drawing currently on display at Nicolleti Contemporary. That small tiled space bears an uncanny resemblance to Ginny on Frederick’s former sandwich shop, which also evokes changing rooms and public toilets, historically sites of communal, anonymous sexual encounters.
Such subterranean sex clubs and subversive sexual practices, increasingly condemned due to the society’s continued sanitisation of sexual subcultures, are suggested by the two illuminated lightboxes that bathe the gallery in an alluring, almost lustful, Gatsby-esque green glow. One advertises being open ‘24 Hours’, a statement true of Gold’s exhibition that is indeed viewable at all hours via the gallery’s glass frontage, duly duping late-night revellers with empty promises of illicit adventure.