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ROBERT KNOKE & CASEY SPOONER ON THEIR FANTASIES OF A HOMOSEXUAL PRESIDENT

ROBERT KNOKE & CASEY SPOONER ON THEIR FANTASIES OF A HOMOSEXUAL PRESIDENT

Robert Knoke was born in Hannover, Germany and splits his time between New York City, Hannover, and Paris. He began a portrait series of the friends he made within the creative communities of New York, Paris, and Berlin. This impressive series of large-scale, mixed-media drawings started with the late painter Leon Golub in 1991 and continued throughout the 2000’s. His subjects include Iris Apfel, Fabien Baron, Bret Easton Ellis, Nicola Formichetti, Debbie Harry, Marc Jacobs, The Kills, Rick Owens, Andrée Putman, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Liza Thorn, Lawrence Weiner, and Olivier Zahm, to name a few. Knoke challenges traditional styles of portraiture by combining elements of realism and abstraction, breaking the naturalistic look of a portrait by representing what cannot be seen by the eye. I had the pleasure of working with Robert on his two-part exhibition at CULTUREEDIT featuring his portrait of AA Bronson and 31 erotic line drawings of Casey Spooner in conjunction with Casey’s multifaceted SPOONER2020 presidential campaign. Robert, Casey and I chatted about their collaboration and the intersection of art, politics, and sexuality.  Read our conversation and then check out the online exhibition page here

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How did this collaboration between the both of you come about? 

R: I’ve been friends with Casey almost 15 years I think. I did a lot of drawings of him over those years. Most of them in New York. Sometimes my work was used for Fischerspooner merchandise. So, we have a bit of a history with collaborations. When Casey was moving to L.A. he was staying for a longer period as the only guest at the Chateau Marmont. The hotel allowed me to use their stationary with Casey’s name on it to do a series of portraits in this special surrounding. During this time, he developed this President character with great music and fashion and designs and wanted to show this project with some other artists at Mannerheim Gallery in Paris. When I thought about this Presidential theme it was very clear for me right away not to do regular portraits but erotic drawings of him. I planned to do drawings live at the gallery on presidential stationary while Casey would have been sitting for me. It would have been more a performance piece with drawings as the outcome. Unfortunately, this couldn’t happen because of the Covid lockdown and Casey couldn’t fly from L.A. to Paris. So, we decided to use intimate photos Casey had of himself. I worked with those and used my imagination as well.

C: We’ve been working together for many years, so it’s very easy for us to collaborate. I think it’s been 15 years?! We have a level of trust, understanding and aesthetic knowledge that makes everything effortless. Robert has an extensive archive of photos and studies of me. He has seen me create and implement many personas. Because of this, He has a very clear idea of my process and how character is integrated into music, film, photography and performance. He takes what I have started and finds ways to push the ideas further. This SPOONER2020 body of work might be our best collaboration to date. I’m very happy he has chosen to develop the theme of sexuality and politics. I find the heteronormative ideals and double standards of the patriarchy wildly offensive. These ideals create a distinctly schizophrenic political persona that is oppressive and hypocritically indulgent. These power structures continue to perpetuate shame, repression, homophobia, misogyny and racism. The hollow morality of American politics inspired me to create a character that was unabashedly queer and completely sex positive. Robert’s drawings elevate these ideas from tabloid trash to timeless drawings that conquer the stigma of pornography. His drawings position a visual language tied to classical figure drawing with the erotic which only lends more power to the subject matter. I especially love the way this work serves as a foil to the SPOONER2020 OnlyFans page. It is the friction between the digital world and the classical arts that makes this work simultaneously timely and timeless.

Robert Knoke, "FANTASIES OF A HOMOSEXUAL PRESIDENT; POINTING A FINGER AT THE DOUBLE STANDARDS OF THE PATRIARCHY" -SPOONER2020 (Work in Progress)

 

Tell me about the choice to combine American flag imagery and patriotism with homosexuality and pride, especially during such a traumatic political era in the US.

R: When Casey came up with this idea to run for president, I thought, yes, finally! Finally someone who would be right for a country like the USA. For me as a German, the USA and specially New York City where I spend so much of my time since the late 1980s, was always a place of freedom of speech, expression, and equality. I mean of course it is also a country that frightens me but, in the end, I love this idea of the American dream. That anything can be possible. Maybe it’s a huge illusion but a nice one. But especially during these days, where it has become more and more conservative and controlled, we need to push against this wall of ignorance and stupidity. For me the drawings are not only a symbol for patriotism and homosexuality but a symbol for freedom and humanity. In the end it is all about humanity and love. I believe in the power of love and since it’s drawn on stationary, all these drawings are love letters.

ROBERT KNOKE, "FANTASIES OF A HOMOSEXUAL PRESIDENT; POINTING A FINGER AT THE DOUBLE STANDARDS OF THE PATRIARCHY" -SPOONER2020 #24, 2020

You mentioned to me once that these drawings remind you of the art you made as a child - tell me more about that.

R: When I was about five or six, I started to draw naked women instead of cars, houses, or whatever children draw during that age. My father was also an artist and I used to spend a lot of time in his studio. He was very much painting naked figures all the time. Also erotic art. So of course I copied my father. The reactions of my parents’ friends were very alarming! They thought my parents might spend too much time walking around naked or whatever… They were kind of shocked that a little boy is drawing such stuff. For me it didn’t make much of a difference to draw naked breasts or apples. But I got more attention drawing provocative stuff and of course I liked that. I knew that it wasn’t usual for my age because of their reactions. This lasted until I was 14 or so. It got more and more explicit or precise. Then I lost interest in that. So now, with this project, I’ve been drawing erotic drawings for the first time since my childhood… which is the reason why I did line drawings instead of the way I usually draw my portraits - which are more between drawing and painting. As a child I only drew with the line. No shadows or so. More graphical and simple. So, as soon as I thought about the erotic approach of the drawings of Casey, I thought about my childhood drawings and that I would go back to that aesthetic. 

Robert Knoke, Childhood Drawing, 1977
ROBERT KNOKE, "FANTASIES OF A HOMOSEXUAL PRESIDENT; POINTING A FINGER AT THE DOUBLE STANDARDS OF THE PATRIARCHY" -SPOONER2020 #29, 2020

Tell me more about your drawings being “love letters.” Is this applicable to all your subjects? 

 R: Well, because these erotic drawings are on stationary paper, they can be easily called love letters because they have a certain message. It is very much loaded with symbolism. Of course, you can also call them sex letters but in the end with the political statement it is about love. But yes, I would say that my work in general deals with love one way or the other. For my subjects or for art in general. Of course I love to draw and I love to meet people and draw them. I love this moment of creating. But it is also sometimes very painful for me, because I’m struggling a lot with my drawings. I want to reach a certain level with each drawing. It is very hard work to draw those big portraits. It is always about the right moment. When everything seems perfect it is a wonderful feeling, and I can get very excited. But when it doesn’t work out right, I can get very depressed and angry. I guess everyone who is working passionately feels the same.

 

ROBERT KNOKE, "FANTASIES OF A HOMOSEXUAL PRESIDENT; POINTING A FINGER AT THE DOUBLE STANDARDS OF THE PATRIARCHY" -SPOONER2020 #8, 2020

View the online exhibition & read the SPOONER2020 Manifesto here. 

 

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