Before I started to specialize more and more in the sale of shunga art, I was fairly unfamiliar with art that depicts male/male love. As a heterosexual man I initially had to get used to these type of shunga illustrations depicting (the often) unvarnished sexual activity of same gender protagonists but this gradually changed into appreciation when I learned more about the specific cultural background of Japan at the time. The beauty of shunga art is that no subject was left untouched and the Japanese artists had a sharp eye for all 'deviations'.
Fig.1. Self-portrait Michael Kirwan
In my opinion, we also find the same quality in the work of the American artist Michael Kirwan (1953-2018). His homoerotic universe covers the whole range of sexual behavior between males, from "ordinary" gay erotica to the rather kinky: he doesn't hesitate for a moment to include subject matter concerning infidelity, spanking and submission, underage and interracial sex, deformity, incest, rape and violence.
Kirwan's comic characters are based on ordinary people who do not necessarily meet the ideal of beauty that we often come across in adult material. Certainly the physical features such as the buttocks and genitals are heavily exaggerated (just like in shunga), but still retain a certain lifelike appearance. The latter also due to the realistic places of action such as grubby public toilets, shower rooms, in parks and inside cars (Fig.2).
Fig.2. 'Backseat Snack ' (1994)
Kirwan was born in New York City 1953 and from an early age he drew on paper grocery store bags with ballpoint pens and filled small steno pads with drawings. He had protruding upper front teeth and was regularly called a sissy, but didn’t really care as long as he could draw more inviting worlds on A&P supermarket bags
Derisive and Shrewd
He became part of an innovative programme developed by the Archdiocese of New York whereby particularly bright boys were taught rigorous, in-depth college courses by the Christian Brothers. Here his artistic skills were recognized and he was able to grow. However, in advanced education at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, he had to endure four years of lessons from inferior teachers.This is were the young Kirwan became derisive and shrewd, displaying a pungent humor when insulting his superiors.
Fig.3. 'The Emperor's Son I ' (1999)
Kirwan began producing homoerotic art in the early 1980s, inspired by his job as an attendant at St. Mark's Baths, a gay sex club. His first published work appeared in Playguy magazine. He produced monthly comic strips for Playguy, including The Roadies, which ran from October 1995 through September 1997; The Adventures of Richie Tease, from October 1997 through January 1999; and Beginner's Luck, which began in July 1999. As the market for magazine illustrations declined, Kirwan turned to commissioned work.
Tom of Finland Foundation
His work has been exhibited at the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angles, and at the Peter Madero Gallery and the Leslie/Lohman Gallery in New York, as well as in group shows in Portland, Oregon, and Miami, Florida. His images have circulated all over the world and original drawings are highly sought after by serious collectors of erotica.
Fig.4. 'Mugged Jogger '
Although Kirwan's brightly colored and masterfully detailed gay comics are made to evoke an aesthetic sensation (even for those who don't get excited by the subject matter), his intentions are not just for entertainment purposes, but there is also an underlying mission. "I’d like viewers to recognize familiar situations and see a spark of their own lives displayed in my work, to sense the true brotherhood inherent in who we are and what we do with each other. I want my illustrations to unite us as a tribe, letting every fag know that he belongs, that he is welcome, and that he is not alone.” (from The Artist Muses, Dispatch 2002)
- Kirwan was also a gifted author and photographer on erotica.
- He married his high-school girlfriend when she became pregnant and they had a son, Larry. They remained married until she divorced him due to his sexual infidelity with men in the late 1970s.
And now without further ado the artist's amazing work...
Fig.5. 'Truckstop Gangbang '
Fig.6. 'Tex Streaks The Strip'
A fun drawing by Michael Kirwan from 1991. Used as an illustration for a story by W.C. Clark [Playguy, Aug-91] about a hustler paid to streak down Sunset Blvd & other feats of exhibitionism. Click here for the story.
Fig.7. 'At Gunpoint '
Fig.8. 'Meat Marveling in the Locker Room '
Fig.9. 'Basking '
Fig.10. 'Nephews Grasp '
Fig.11. 'A Yawn is as Good as a Wink '
Fig.12. 'Spring Break '
Fig.13. 'Little Bro '
Fig.14. 'Swamp Rat '
Fig.16. 'Party Favors'
Fig.17. 'Jacuzzib '
Fig.19. 'The Fourth Degree 2 '
Fig.20. 'Too Damn Out '
Fig.21. 'Time Traveler 2 '
Fig.22. 'Another Homeopathic Treatment '
Fig.23. 'The Benchwarmers Suck '
Fig.25. 'Dick '
Fig.26. 'Dick 2 Cowboys '
Fig.27. 'Steam Room '
Fig.28. 'Hard Copy ' (Aug 1997)
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Click HERE for the iconic gay art of Tom of Finland
The site Kirwanarts.com is a superb in-depth source on Kirwan's art.
Sources: Tumblrgallery,xyz, twitter.com, hentaiporns.net, wikipedia.org, adonismale.com, x3vid.com, kirwanarts.com,
Who is your favorite gay artist? Leave your reaction in the comment box below...!!