March 7 – April 27, 2024

Opening reception:
Thursday, March 7, 2024
6 — 8 PM

Presentation by Allen Ellenzweig (Author of George Platt Lynes: The Daring Eye, Oxford University Press, 2021):
Saturday, April 13, 2024
4 — 6 PM

CLAMP is pleased to present “Networks—George Platt Lynes + PaJaMa,” an exhibition of photographs exploring the web of professional and personal relationships instrumental in the conception and reception of work by George Platt Lynes (1907-1955) and PaJaMa [Paul Cadmus (1904-1999), Jared French (1905-1988), and Margaret Hoening French (1906-1998)].

Photographer George Platt Lynes functioned as a nucleus in the highly interconnected world of New Yorkers, particularly in the 1940s. Moving between high fashion magazine publications, celebrity portraiture, dancers and choreographers, gallery and museum contacts, and the overlapping circles of fairly visible homosexuals of the day, Platt Lynes connected a wide range of individuals through both his professional and personal interactions.

Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Margaret Hoening French, while primarily regarded as painters, collaborated extensively with the camera beginning in 1937 through the 1940s, and occasionally as late as 1957 under the moniker PaJaMa (comprised of the first syllable of each of their first names). Connected romantically and sexually (Paul Cadmus and Jared French were longtime lovers, while Jared and Margaret French were husband and wife), the ménage à trois often incorporated their social sphere into their photographs, including writer Glenway Wescott, his partner and MoMA coordinator Monroe Wheeler, actor Sandy Campbell, writer and editor Donald Windham, among many others. The photographs not only acted out psychological dramas among the three key players, the process of collaborative art making was a singular “type of game into which any member of their social circle was invited to enter.”(1)

In Body Language: The Queer Staged Photographs of George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa, the first critical study of George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa in tandem, scholars Nick Mauss and Angela Miller extensively discuss the employment of the artists’ extended social networks in the production of their photographic imagery, and the influence the artists projected onto one another. Mauss writes of Platt Lynes: “Fashion models, dancers, artists, assistants, choreographers, editors, curators, novelists, poets, ‘trade,’ and lovers pulsed in and out of the studio with a frequency that was matched only decades later by Andy Warhol’s Factory.”(2) For Platt Lynes, as with PaJaMa, the process of producing photographs was not a proprietary act of “singular originality,” but rather a “condition of play” to which both the photographer and his model claimed a certain degree of agency. The studio of Lynes represented “a space in which the intimate, the social, the imaginary, the commercial, and the personal coexisted.”(3)

Angela Miller discusses PaJaMa’s preferred practice of collaborative staging over “the decisive moment,” akin to the method by which Platt Lynes meticulously staged and lighted compositions in his studio. “PaJaMa’s stories had to be conveyed . . . through the expressive language of the body: through pose, gesture, expression, gaze, attitude, and spatial intervals; through props; and through dramatic stagings”(4), which is not dissimilar from the presentation of a dance, which so intrigued Platt Lynes throughout his life.

Further, PaJaMa’s triad found its mirror in Platt Lynes’s own sometimes stormy ménage à trois with Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler, who lived together in a New York apartment and shared a weekend home in New Jersey, which was often visited by members of their New York circle.

Lastly, the photographs of Platt Lynes and PaJaMa were promoted and disseminated by the same networks involved in the art’s conception and production. Platt Lynes’s imagery was circulated through the pages of popular magazines as both editorial spreads and fashion shoots and well as advertisements; as prints on the walls of public museums and private galleries; in the pages of dance performance programs; and more quiet exchanges as gifts among friends as with his now celebrated male nudes. PaJaMa’s small scale photographic prints were handed out like “play things” or carte de visites, never intended for exhibition or sale. They were given to friends and members of a chosen family who would recognize and appreciate the interpersonal dynamics and tensions enacted and exorcized through calculated compositional strategies.

All of this is underpinned by exhaustive, solid scholarship by writers such as Allen Ellenzweig, whose astounding biography of George Platt Lynes was published by Oxford University Press in 2021(5). Ellenzweig will be presenting a talk on the life of work of Platt Lynes at the gallery on April 13th, toward the end of the exhibition.

(1) Nick Mauss and Angela Miller, Body Language: The Queer Staged Photographs of George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa, University of California Press, Oakland, CA, 2023, p. 8
(2) Nick Mauss, “The Uses of Photographs,” ibid., p. 64.
(3) Ibid., p. 64.
(4) Angela Miller, “PaJaMa Drama,” ibid., p. 85.
(5) Allen Ellenzweig, George Platt Lynes: The Daring Eye, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2021.

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