introducing the world of JIMMY DESANA
Jimmy DeSana died in 1990 at the age of 40. He and Tseng Kwong Chi, who died in the same year and at the same age, were the reigning photographers of a crazy art and music scene. DeSana never achieved the fame of Robert Mapplethorpe, even though his pictures explored a similarly sensationalistic and taboo territory, depicting S&M scenes and other sights most folk have never seen. Both produced edgy portraits. Why was Mapplethorpe big and DeSana legendary? Maybe DeSana played to a smaller, hipper room and had a more stringent art agenda while Mapplethorpe had a fame agenda. Where Robert was making clearly prurient, way-out pictures, Jimmy was making surrealist high cheesecake — pictures that were shocking but also spectacularly ironic. Jimmy’s sex was cool and second degree, Robert’s was hot and in your face. Submission, with an essay by William S. Burroughs, which appeared in 1979 in black and white rather than in his spectrum-bending ultraviolent color, stands as his only published volume until now. Artist Laurie Simmons, who administers DeSana’s estate, recently mounted a show of his work at Salon 94 in New York.