November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Los Angeles

On location with Ginger Liu

The Fairoaks Project


June 12th – 27th, 2010
Opening Reception June 12th, 2010
2121 San Fernando Road Suite 3
Los Angeles, CA 90065

DRKRM gallery presents an extraordinary, never-before-seen glimpse into pre-AIDS gay sexual culture. The Fairoaks Project is an exhibit of Polaroid photographs taken by Frank Melleno during the spring and summer of 1978 at The Fairoaks Hotel, a San Francisco bathhouse housed in a refurbished Victorian building near a black ghetto.  The Fairoaks was known for its laid-back and racially integrated ambiance. Bold and unapologetic, Melleno’s images capture an aspect of gay life rarely seen in snapshot photography: sexually candid encounters that are playful, spontaneous and often affectionate. The dark storm of drug abuse and pandemic disease that would soon overtake the community is not visible in these celebratory pictures.

Melleno’s collection of Polaroids was put in a box shortly after they were shot and have not been seen until now. Many of the images contain nudity and frank erotic scenes, but they also capture men dressed in festive attire and engaged in other aspects of the counter-culture lifestyle the Fairoaks promoted. Many artists lived at the hotel, and ongoing therapy-support groups and monthly theme parties enhanced the Fairoaks’ reputation as a neighborhood center for gay men as much as a bathhouse.

A limited-edition book of photographs from the exhibit, with an introduction by Mark Thompson, is available for purchase in the gallery and on BLURB.

Frank Melleno: The Fairoaks Project
Polaroids from a San Francisco bathhouse 1978