John McLaughlin had not initially considered being a performance artist. Born on Long Island, he harbored an interest in the visual arts, eventually moving to New York City to study at the School of Visual Arts, where he knew Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, creating punk-style posters for downtown bands and, later, himself in the print studios. In 1981, he exhibited some of his word-based art at the "Beyond Words" show at the Mudd Club (alongside Haring, Iggy Pop, Fab Five Freddy and Alan Vega) and at the "New York/New Wave" show at P.S.1. He met Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias in downtown New York and soon gave up painting to express himself through performance, adopting the surname “Sex." His performances mixed exaggerated cabaret and cheesy Las Vegas personas in an act that made its way through some of the most famous venues of the downtown New York art scene, including Club 57, the Pyramid Club, Danceteria, The Palladium, Paradise Garage and Andy Warhol's Underground. His work with artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring culminated in the release of a four song EP for Sire Records as well as 12” singles and music videos for two more of his songs. Only having just released his first recordings, John Sex passed away from AIDS-related complications at 34.
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