Robert Opel's Fey-Way Studios
1287 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA USA
March 1978 - July 1979
 
Robert Mapplethorpe had his second West Coast exhibition, and Touko Laasksonen, better known as Tom of Finland had his first US exhibition at Robert Opel's Fey-Way Studios. Many of the participants listed above on the March 1979 First Anniversay flyer had previously exhibited at Opel's art gallery.

Click below for big pic!

Fey-Way Studios
1287 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA

 

This exhibition presents artifacts on paper relating to Robert Opel and Fey-Way Studios including flyers, invitations, post cards and posters that I collected as the events unfolded in 1978-79. For those who did not have the opportunity to participate, I hope these documents will somehow convey the sense of fun, irreverence, and strong artistic energy that characterized this dynamic and creative period in San Francisco's Gay history. 
 
During the 16 months that the Fey-Way gallery was open, Robert Opel curated a steady stream of monthly gay art exhibitions whose jam packed opening nights I rarely missed. It was a perfect prelude to a SOMA (South of Market Area) evening that might include visits to the BLACK & BLUE bar and the 8th Street Baths -- both located off Howard Street, a block from Fey-Way. The RAMROD, the AMBUSH and the EAGLE bars were not far away.
 
Unfortunately, the fun ended rather abruptly when on the night of July 7, 1979, a crazed gunman by the name of Maurice Keenan assassinated Robert Opel in his own gallery. I was not alone to experience a great loss. There was talk of keeping the gallery open, but without its charismatic ringmaster, no one could pull together its divergent and conflicting artistic energies.
 
Robert Opel became my friend and collaborator soon after I moved to San Francisco on May 23, 1978. I was neither part of the leather community though I frequented the SOMA bars which often exhibited the works of leather artists, nor was I involved with heavy drugs, but this did not matter to Robert. Always fascinated with anything having to do with Gay Art, he was a great source of encouragement. When he graciously invited me to contribute to the anniversary show, I submitted a single Polaroid photo-collage. However, after his murder, the art game quite suddenly ceased to be fun, so I stopped. It was not until the early '90s that I picked up my 35 mm camera and started playing with it again.   -Biron

 

 

More in Philip Vincent's interview with Biron on Mapplethorpe, Opel,and Dreva. Click–> HERE
Your comments are appreciated.
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  • *The images presented in this gallery are for historical and non-commercial purposes only and remain the exclusive property of the individual artists shown.

    Photos by BIRON © All rights reserved