LOS ANGELES — A fantastical queer, ketamine-fueled garden of Eden can be found at Noon Projects in LA’s historic Chinatown. Heaven on Earth, Christian Rogers’s solo show is a fluorescent floral feast for the eyes. Basically, SpongeBob Squarepants’s Bikini Bottom, but gay. Georgia O’Keeffe, but on poppers. The sculpted multimedia paintings and drawings incorporate vintage porn magazine clippings collected from queer bookstores like LA’s iconic recently shuttered and resurrected Circus of Books. The work of Oregon-born, Los Angeles-based Christian Rogers explores queer joy and healing, acting as a memorial for those lost to the AIDS epidemic.
High-gloss acrylic three-dimensional paintings of flowers and celestial bodies dominate the gallery space. In “The Blue Rose” (2023) a paper pulp rose rises from the canvas like a giant puffy sticker. Its psychedelic leafy arms are outstretched, dancing or flexing, celebrating the scantily clad men nestled between its tendrils. In “Full Grown / Full Blown” (2023), an erect neon orange flower with blue coral-like veins grows from the edge of a hand-crafted paper pulp frame, which resembles one you might find encircling a funhouse mirror. The suggestive veiny flower is surrounded by other engorged flowers with tight centers and paper cut-outs of aroused posing men and one muscular leather daddy. The texture of the paper evokes hills, muscles, bodies, and the tops of circus tents. Rogers’s paintings are a carnival of gay love and euphoria, a cruising paradise.
More pornographic collages and muted cosmic black and white graphite drawings of flowers and starfish offer a reprieve from the neon and show off more of Rogers’s technical skills. The backroom wall is lined with earth-toned precarious polaroids of day-blooming cactus flowers overlayed with unabashedly nude bodies. Bisexual cactus blooms that require mechanical (hand) pollination sprout from torsos and groins, reminding the viewer that art itself is a form of hand pollination, an opportunity to retell history or to create something new.
Though joyful in its initial appearance, Heaven on Earth is infused with emotional struggle — namely the LGBTQ+ community’s decades-long fight for political rights and sexual freedom. It is assumed that some of the men from these vintage magazine clippings did not survive the HIV/AIDS crisis. Rogers’s paintings act as a tribute to those who have been lost and also as a utopian reimagining of what can still be. In “Orgy at the Oasis” (2023) a pair of eyes from a magazine clipping glares at the viewer as if to say, never forget me.
With hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community on the rise, like the recent Lake Arrowhead fatal shooting of a queer ally shop owner for displaying a pride flag in her window, it is more important now than ever to make space for queer art in supportive environments like Noon Projects, which prioritizes queer artists and does not shy away from work that is overtly homoerotic. Rogers’s work is not just a smut archive or a gay psychedelic dreamland, but rather a reimagining of a possible future wherein there are more medical advances in HIV prevention and a new generation is eager to openly explore their queerness.
Heaven on Earth continues at Noon Projects (951 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles) through October 21. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.