‘Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play’, opening this week at Artists Space in New York, is perhaps the most complete look at the iconic artist’s work ever, including more than six decades of drawings. The exhibit’s a boon for those looking for insight into the illustrator’s process, with hundreds of reference pages — collaged mood boards which were the cut-and-paste inspiration behind the horny comrades who populated Tom’s world — on display.

Adman by day, Touko Laaksonen, kept his cutout hunks in binders, obsessively categorizing them by type: leather queens, badass bikers, pouty youth, fit jocks, and men in uniform among them. And although his bulbous, but photorealistic renditions are more the stuff of wet dreams than reality, looking at his references, you get an idea of how he came to master the cocky smirks, square jaws, shiny leather jackets and bulging denim crotches that are now so recognizable in the Tom of Finland lexicon.

Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play opens this Saturday, 13 June 2015 at 6 P.M. and continues through 23 August at  the Artists Space, 38 Greene Street, 3rd Floor in New York.

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