Leslie Friedman & Bernardo Margulis

When I walked into Leslie Friedman & Bernardo Margulis: Gay, Jewish, or Both exhibition at NAPOLEON gallery in Philadelphia, PA, I immediately wanted to take a seat at the dining room table. The basket of bagels were so inviting. The monogrammed napkins and glassware were decadent, the printed chair upholstery quite charming. But when I looked at Leslie Friedman, opened my mouth to ask if I could sit, she shook her head and said “no… there was an incident.” Apparently, there had been some overzealous viewers who sat down and displayed inappropriate dinner table, not to mention gallery, behavior. This, of course, only made joining the table even more appealing.

The allure of this exhibition lies in its complete transformation of the gallery environment. I felt that I had been transported into one of Thom Filicia‘s interior designs from an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy post-makeover. The magic of the makeover lies in the details, and in a funny way the same is true here. From the family photographs of young men and their mothers, to the Warhol inspired prints, to the rather titillating ceramic plate detailing of young naked boys “playing leap frog,” the exhibition is rife with humorous insider references that seem to simultaneously call-out and mock the stereotypes of being Gay, Jewish, and of course, Both.

The exhibition is on display, NAPOLEON in Philadelphia until January 31st.

Margulis and Friedman discuss the nuances of Gay, Jewish, or Both, at the dining table. Their friendship and collaboration began from a shared love for color and pattern five years ago. Margulis is a graphic designer with an interest in typography and patterns and Friedman is a printmaker and installation artist. Margulis, who has become accustomed to designing work for clients and commercial purposes, describes feeling more freedom in this collaboration. While Friedman, seasoned in her own installation and pop-art aesthetic, felt acutely aware of the constraints of creating an interior space.

Through these donated photographs, Friedman and Margulis explore the stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother and her son. Friedman also described how historically, the overbearing mother could be blamed for her child's homosexuality.

Warhol-inspired prints adding to the dining room's modern decor. The Animal Toile Wallpaper, while seemingly innocent enough to put in a child's bedroom, reference specific gay subcultures e.g. the bear cub, the pig, the silver fox, etc.

The hand drawn ceramic detailing in the plates are inspired by the 1994 film "The Birdcage" and based on time-lapse photographs by Eadweard Muybridge. They appear to be two naked boys innocently playing leapfrog, but placed in this context, the results are humorous and rather homoerotic.

Pairs of cocks adorn the walls, raising eyebrows. Are they mirror images? Or are they a rooster couple? This is actually a common wallpaper motif in the countryside.

Dining in style with monogrammed glassware. The glasses and champagne flutes are etched with GJB.

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Categories: Exhibitions

2 Responses to “Leslie Friedman & Bernardo Margulis”

  1. Beth Scher says:

    Fabulous job! I really wish I could see it in situ. I will have to wait until the museum debut! It truly deserves worldwide attention. Sorry about the “incident”. The bagels are probably too enticing!