In Tear Sheets, Silano creates composite images that appropriate gay iconography from 1970s and 80s porn magazines such as Blueboy, Torso and Honcho in order to negotiate his own identity and formative experiences as impacted by the AIDS crisis. The images that filled the glossy pages of these magazines once accompanied articles on blithe topics – fashion, popular culture, sex and cruising – intertwined with heavier issues such as gay rights, political activism and HIV/AIDS. The pages of these magazines represent specific cultural moments that are often obliterated and forgotten. Although porn has largely been discarded and devalued as “ephemera,” the content of these magazines is evident of a gay socialization and identity formation that has had global consequence and influence, fragmented and transformed but still alive today. As an abyss of pornography has moved from under the mattress to the mobile phone screen, gay identity and its relationship to the circulation of images is often left unexamined. In response, Silano’s Tear Sheetsexplores the visual culture and iconography of his queer predecessors to reconcile the loss and longing that permeates those affected by the AIDS crisis.
Silano’s artistic practice operates much like an archive itself: magazines are found and salvaged and the images that most strongly speak to gay sexuality and identity of the time period, especially pertaining to the AIDS crisis, are carefully organized and systematized. The work comprising Tear Sheets was crafted by tearing and obscuring the source material – juxtaposing pornography, advertisements and images of gay icons. Taking formal and conceptual cues from The Pictures Generation – the fragility and easy manipulation of the physical material along with images starkly isolated by expanses of negative space – expresses the loss of history, family and community depicted in the images. Like any archive that comes to shape a history, Silano’s Tear Sheets grapples with his personal power and the external forces that determine what is worthy of remembering and what is destroyed.