Palm Beach Modern Auctions
Live Auction

Bruce of Los Angeles Archive: The Male Physique

Thu, Sep 26, 2019 12:00PM EDT
Lot 93

Bruce Bellas Male Bodybuilding/Physique Competition Negatives & Contact Prints

Estimate: $400 - $600

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$3,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$30,000 $2,500
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000
Lot is comprised of the following items from the archives of Bruce Bellas: twenty-two 2.25" x 2.25" negatives with corresponding contact prints in their original sleeves. Signage in the photos reads "Muscle Beach".

Designer & Manufacturer: Bruce Bellas (1909-1974), aka Bruce of Los Angeles
Markings: Marking(s). Some lots in this auction have various handwritten notations on the photos/packaging. Those with apparent significance have been noted and/or photographed.
Country of Origin & Materials: American; gelatin emulsified plastic (negative), paper
Dimensions(H,W,D): negatives: 2.25" x 2.25"
Condition: Specific to this lot, we noted bends and wear/discoloration to envelope consistent with age. Photos from the archives of Bruce Bellas were held in storage for years with minimal handling, and overall condition reflects that. We would consider them all to be in very good to good condition. Condition issues we noted, primarily among prints on fiber-based paper, were minor edge wear and corner bends, and some with some undulation to the paper. Please refer to the detail photos in the listing, and do not hesitate to inquire with any questions you may have pertaining to a specific lot or items within a lot.

"In New York back in the 80s, I would go to a little shop, a loft in the East Village called Physique Memorabilia. It was discreet; you had to be buzzed in. They had so many photographs by all the many different 'Guild' photographers, but I quickly recognized that Bruce's work was of the highest quality, technically as well as compositionally. I tried to collect as many images as I could that I thought were worthy of framing! He could have had a career as a legitimate" photographer had he not chosen the nude male physique as his subject matter – an illegal practice in his time. His photographs were the most inventive, often playful and at other times classical (the images I was personally most drawn to). I would visit the loft and buy as many photographs as I could afford at the time. This was around the time I met Jimmy D, who held around half to three fourths of the Bruce Bellas estate. He left me the collection after his death from AIDS at a very young age." ~ Dimitri Levas, on his introduction to Bruce of Los Angeles and acquisition of the Archive photos offered in this auction

Dimitri Levas is best known for his work as Art Director and stylist for Robert Mapplethorpe, and as Set Designer for Bruce Weber. He co-authored the 2016 book "Flora: Les fleurs de Mapplethorpe" and is a noted collector of 20th century glass and design.

Urban Culture Auctions in association with Palm Beach Modern Auctions is pleased to represent a historically significant collection of photographs and ephemera from the archives of Bruce of Los Angeles.

This compilation includes over 200 lots of original vintage photographs and negatives. Ten+ lots feature Joe Dallesandro (Joe Davis), American actor and Andy Warhol superstar. Dallesandro is generally considered to be the most famous male sex symbol of American underground films of the 20th century, as well as a sex symbol of gay subculture.

In "Bruce of Los Angeles," Jim Dolinsky describes Bruce Bellas as a pioneer of modern nude photography: a master artist and technician dedicated to depicting the male figure. Historically, his body of work is a chronicle of the men of his generation, and his images inform us of the way they looked, dressed and lived in that era. Jim Dolinsky was the executor of the Bruce Bellas Estate, himself a noteworthy writer, photographer, dealer and collector of physique photography.

Kensington Road: physique magazines in LGBTQ history

For many young men of the 1950s, physique magazines were an introduction and portal to the gay community. They represented a sexual awakening and self-identification and fostered a community of men attracted to men. F. Valentine Hooven, author of "Beefcake: The Muscle Magazines of America 1950-1970," wrote "those little physique magazines were not just an aspect of gay culture; they virtually were gay culture." He further went on to explain that for many gay men, "it was their first awareness that they were not alone, the first contact with others of their own kind."

Censorship laws of the time also placed physique magazines front and center in the gay rights movement, inspiring the readers who found such meaning in the magazines to activism in the ongoing fight for open expression. Personally, as well as politically, they exemplified what it was to be gay at this time in U.S. history.

Bruce Bellas - better known as Bruce of Los Angeles – was a key figure in this community. He had been taking candid photos of men for some time in his home state of Nebraska when, like other photographers of this genre, legal trouble propelled his permanent move to the West Coast. Bellas rose to prominence in the 1940s as a photographer in California's bodybuilding scene. He relocated permanently to California in 1947, opened a studio the following year, and in 1956 launched beefcake magazine "The Male Figure."

Bruce of Los Angeles was noteworthy in the art world as well as the gay rights movement, and influenced such photographers as Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Several books document his life and work including Kevin Bentley's "The Naked Heartland- the Itinerant Photography of Bruce of Los Angeles," Vince Aletti's "Bruce of Los Angeles: Inside/Outside," and Janssen's "Bruce of Los Angeles: American Photography of the Male Nude 1940–1970."

Following Bellas' death in 1974, photographer Kurt Deitrick continued distributing his work under the name Kensington Road. Many of the lots in this auction include or reference one of the Kensington Road catalogues, from which buyers could order prints of their favorite models by series number.

{sources: Bentley, Kevin. "The Naked Heartland- the Itinerant Photography of Bruce of Los Angeles." Janssen Verlag, 2000. Simon's Town, South Africa; Dolinsky, Jim. "Bruce of Los Angeles." Bruno Gmunder, 1990. Berlin, Germany; ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California via OAC Online Archive of California; Sam Shahid, New York, New York;}

General notations:

Shipping: We will be pleased to offer in-house shipping within the Continental US on pieces purchased in this auction. Up to three flat lots $25; for purchases of greater than three drawings, please inquire. Lots including three-dimensional objects with weight (such as props, packs of cards, and equipment) not included; please inquire for assistance.

Negatives: Lots presented with 2.25" and 4"x5" negatives give the buyer the ability to enlarge prints to a greater scale than the traditional 35mm negatives.

Copyright: The consignor, as owner of the collection, makes no claim to copyright of the images nor are they aware of any copyright claims. Although the consignor and Palm Beach Modern Auctions is not aware of any copyrights on the lots, the potential purchaser/successful bidder of a lot(s) should perform their own due diligence with respect to copyright. Please note the following exceptions which are from the Estate rather than the Archive: lots 4-8, 39, 58, 59, 137, 141

Relevant terms: Bob Mizer, lgbt, bodybuilding, weightlifting, muscle beach, Tom of Finland, photographs, black and white, IFBB, NABBA, Olympia, athletic, pride, Stonewall

SHIPPING NOTATION FOR THIS AUCTION (SEPTEMBER 26, 2019) We will be pleased to offer in-house shipping within the Continental US on pieces purchased in this auction. Up to three flat lots $25; for purchases of greater than three lots, please inquire. Lots including three-dimensional objects with weight (such as props, packs of cards, and equipment) not included; please inquire for assistance. STANDARD SHIPPING TERMS 11. Shipping/Pick-up/Storage: PBMA highly recommends that bidders obtain shipping quotes prior to bidding. If you would like to obtain a shipping quote prior to the auction, please contact PBMA by phone or email for a list of shippers, or contact your own shipper. PBMA provides shipping lists only as a service to its clients and any such list should not be considered an endorsement of any shipping company. Additionally, PBMA does not pack or ship items for insurance reasons. Final arrangements for shipping, and all costs associated with shipping, are the responsibility of the buyer. Any agreement for shipping is a contract between the buyer and the shipper; PBMA is not a party to any such contract and expressly disclaims any responsibility thereunder. No items will be released for shipping until PBMA receives payment in full and all payments have cleared. Thereafter, items may be picked up at PBMA's exhibition facility Monday through Friday from 10:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. by the winning bidders or their shippers. Please call PBMA the day before you intend to pick-up any item. If a shipper is picking up an item, please send PBMA an e-mail confirming the name of the shipper and the property to be released into the shipper's possession, and providing PBMA permission to release the property to your shipper. All winning lots must be picked up within thirty (30) business days following the close of the auction. After this time, each lot will become subject to storage fees of not less than $5 per day. After 180 days following the close of the auction, any lot which is not picked up will be deemed abandoned by the buyer, will become the property of PBMA and may be disposed of by PBMA, in any manner it chooses, without recourse.