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The Young and Evil

Queer Modernism in New York, 1930–1955

Contributions by Michael Schreiber / Text by Ann Reynolds and Kenneth E. Silver
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Lauded by Jerry Saltz as “one of the most reactionary yet radical visions of art,” The Young and Evil tells the story of a group of artists and writers active during the first half of the twentieth century, when homosexuality was as problematic for American culture as figuration was for modernist painting.

These artists—including Paul Cadmus, Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein, Charles Henri Ford, Jared French, Margaret Hoening French, George Platt Lynes, Bernard Perlin, Pavel Tchelitchew, George Tooker, Alexander Jensen Yow, and their circle—were new social creatures, playfully and boldly homosexual at a time when it was both criminalized and pathologized. They pursued a modernism of the body—driven by eroticism and bounded by intimacy, forming a hothouse world within a world that doesn’t nicely fit any subsequent narrative of modern American art. In their work, they looked away from abstraction toward older sources and models—classical and archaic forms of figuration and Renaissance techniques. What might be seen as a reactionary aesthetic maneuver was made in the service of radical content—endeavoring to depict their own lives. Their little-known history is presented here through never-before-exhibited photographs, sculptures, drawings, ephemera, and rarely seen major paintings—offering the first view of its kind into their interwoven intellectual, artistic, and personal lives.

Edited by Jarrett Earnest, who also curated the exhibition, The Young and Evil features new scholarship by art historians Ann Reynolds and Kenneth E. Silver and an interview with Alexander Jensen Yow by Michael Schreiber.

“Meticulously researched exhibition”

– Roberta Smith, The New York Times

“Unapologetically queer,” and “one of the most reactionary yet radical visions of art.”

– Jerry Saltz, Vulture

The Young and Evil is a museum-quality exhibition of renegade artists who claimed the radical beauty of their queer love.”

– Daniel Larkin, Hyperallergic

"With its wealth of portraiture and densely imbricated relationality, 'The Young and Evil' felt like peering into a walled garden, a near heterotopia where queer sociality bloomed decades before Stonewall."

– Chloe Wyma, ARTFORUM

“A brilliant mixture of erotic, surrealist and narrative work by a group of artists, writers, and photographers… It was genuinely surprising to peek into the complex love lives and squabbles, and the magazines and other productions of this network of insiders and outsides in old (and very gay) New York.”

– Amy Sillman, Galerie

“Revelatory show”

– Joseph R. Wolin, Time Out

"During the first half of the 20th century, when homosexuality was a crime, the act of even depicting it could land an artist jail time...The Young and the Evil explores the network of artists behind this complex movement, including Paul Cadmus, Jared French, George Platt Lynes and Pavel Tchelitchew."

– Miss Rosen, Huck Magazine

“The highly associative and intimate collection of images published in The Young and Evil provides a glimpse into the world of these queer moderns… An elusive group of artists is given shape by the paintings, photographs and publications they made – works that are centred on the body, saturated with eroticism, and deserve further investigation.”

– Thomas Powell, Apollo

More books from this author: Jarrett Earnest