June in San Francisco ushered in an exhibition for the underground filmmaker and visual artist Mike Kuchar. “Mike’s Men: Sex, Guys, and Videotape!” was held at Magnet, a city-funded STD clinic in the heart of the Castro, that supposed gay mecca. In fact, the event proved to be one of the most successful attempts at bringing together queer men during Pride month. Superbly curated by Eric Smith, Mark Garrett and Margaret Tedesco, “Mike’s Men” was a collection of illustrations and four video shorts. The exhibition served both as a tribute to his lifelong career in avant-garde art, and an acknowledgement of Mike’s recent loss.
Just last September, George Kuchar, Mike’s twin brother and the co-director on many of his films, passed away from prostate cancer (our contributor Jon Davis posted an essay on Kuchar here shortly after). George and Mike were central figures in the 1960s underground film scene, screening their work alongside Andy Warhol, Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger. The subjects of Jennifer M. Kroot’s 2009 documentary It Came From Kuchar, both brothers were legends in the world of experimental film. But even within that innovative, anarchic world, the Kuchars upended the category with their brazenness, camp and DIY style. The Kuchar brothers had wide-ranging impact, influencing David Lynch, Rodger Vadim and San Francisco resident John Waters, who was in attendance for the opening. Waters credits Kuchar’s 1965 film Sins of the Fleshapoids as a major influence on his career. “It’s really what an underground film was,” said Waters, writing in the introduction to the brothers’ 1997 shared memoir Reflections From A Cinematic Cesspool.