Leon Mostovoy: Market Street Cinema

Please note that this exhibition is installed around the second story mezzanine and is only accessible via stairs.

Leon Mostovoy’s photo-essay on the Market Street Cinema provides an intimate glimpse into the personal lives of sex workers at this San Francisco strip club between 1987 and 1988. Focusing on queer femmes, Mostovoy frames the series within the era’s reconsideration of feminist agency through sexuality and sex-positive feminist struggles. During the period, Mostovoy, a transgender artist and photographer, was also producing erotic images for On Our Backs, the first women-run and lesbian-focused erotic magazine, as well as documenting queer punks, activism, and performance in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. The series is among a larger collection of photographs from the 1980s and 90s Mostovoy recently donated to ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

In the artist’s own words:

While living in San Francisco in the 1980s, I saw many queer, femme lovers and friends making a living in the sex industry. My close friend, a dancer, afforded me the behind-the-scenes experience that birthed the Market Street Cinema series. In this series, I hoped to depict the dancers’ lives in an intimate and personal manner. I wanted to introduce people to the nuanced softness found underneath the tough exteriors of the dancers. I strived to capture on film the relationships they built, the dressing room camaraderie, the dark shabby stage, and a glimpse of their customers.

In the 1980s in San Francisco, there was tension between the old school lesbian-feminists and an explosion of young, sex-positive, femme dykes who where publicly out and flaunting raw sex and power as a means of expressing their feminism(s). This series is a tribute to and representation of the voices of this emerging group of sex-positive feminists. The photographs pose a challenging juxtaposition of the dark and depressing drug infested world of the sex industry and a strong group of femmes who turned sexism and capitalism on their heads, using the sex industry as a way of accessing power, control, and money, giving birth to a new era of feminism.

Leon Mostovoy: Market Street Cinema is organized by David Evans Frantz, Curator at ONE Archives at the USC Libraries. Support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.


Leon Mostovoy is a transgender artist who has been creating on the front lines of the queer and political art movements for decades. Formerly Tracy, Mostovoy started his queer art career producing erotic images for On Our Backs magazine in the early 1980s. Mostovoy’s most recent projects explore transgender identity, transformation, sexuality, and gender roles in contemporary U.S. society. His earlier photographic series have explored the struggles and triumphs of women as they strive for strength and independence living outside the parameters of heteronormative expectations. His installation “Death Of My Daughter” was shown in Romania in 2011 to encourage awareness and acceptance in/of their transgender community. In 2011, Leon presented his first retrospective, “(My) Queer (R)evolution,” at Temple University in Philadelphia. He has had over 50 shows, including solo and group photography and multi-media exhibitions. More information on the artist’s website here.


Image (top): Leon Mostovoy, From the “Market Street Cinema” series, circa 1987-88. Geltain silver print, 16 x 20 inches. Leon (Tracy) Mostovoy Photographs. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries
Fri, Jan 23 - Sat, Mar 21 2015

ONE Archives at the USC Libraries
909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles , CA 90007
United States