featured gallery for January 2015

I wanted body as form and vice versa

We start off with the large, yellow "Garden" by Patrick Webb, replete with brushy oils and faintly hiding a bulging male reveler tucked into the composition. His body, like the rest of the picture's elements, seems stuck in the view of the sun. This wash of color and textured surface is cozy near this Polaroid of two men wrestling. The soft luster of the film echoes "Garden"’s yellow glow. The admiration of the male body, this time in an active pose, is also a carryover. The third image brings something else to mix, however. We have an extended and almost headless male nude being observed by a male gazer. His eyes seem deliberately longing, affixed on the body. This last work rounds out an idea; these pictures are all about how the body is looked at, fractured, fetishized, and revered by the artist. The bodies they image are things of beauty and worship.

I was looking for body as form and vice versa in this archive. The images I culled exemplify how these artists were examining their lived experiences, the looking and longing involved in many gay male lives. In honor of this ontological nature, I framed this collection as a gallery walk-through. The cadre of work here is broken into sections, or walls in my imagining. One wall would house the trio mentioned above. I recommend sifting through these images in these arrangements, otherwise they risk overwhelming ones' sense of luxury, and desire. But as you wander around, come continually back to Eddie Valentine’s "B...Brown Time (version b)," with its captivating body and form; this icon demands our attention in place of the male bodies these artists were lucky enough to capture.

The second wall begins with a watercolor of a young man jerking off on the edge of a bed. Next to it a Polaroid capturing fragments of some male bodies by a pool. Finally we have a collage of a nude male figure, imaged with his head cropped out of the frame, holding a large circular print of what looks like layers of flaccid dicks. Like the wall before it, we have a combination of material, execution, and agenda, but all three projects deal with looking at bodies, or looking at men when they aren’t looking back at us. At times that looking is erotic, at times that looking is curious. This emphasis on objectification of the body can direct us to gaze, hard and long.

On our third wall we find three more works: a Polaroid of a kneeling man smoking with an erection, a large photographic print of a cock & balls pushed through a wire grid, and an image of three nude males. Looking closely at these pictures reaps its rewards. The kneeling man, titled "Frank, 1982, I miss you," by Scott Façon is steeped in the iconography of gay longing; the smoking, the hard dick, the fog that gently edits the scene. It’s almost softcore even if the citations are more raw. The second image is more than just a cock & balls up close, though there is nothing wrong with that. This package is presented in a grid, complete with analytical cool, albeit enticingly disrupting the pattern. Then these three graces. These three beautiful and beautified men seem to hold the silence of the room. With heavily made-up faces, and nude bodies hidden behind a sheer scrim, the figures stare out, looking firmly at you, or is it beyond you?

What is hinted at in prior walls is extrapolated in two photographic series employing humor and narcissism, installed one above the other, on our final installation. The upper flight images different men standing atop a repeated kitchen counter. In the first the man is clothed, the second is nude with his back to us, the third stands facing the camera and an observer in a wrestling singlet with a hard cock pulled out from behind the fabric. He, this wrestler, looks at the admirer in the image, not us. But if we want to think back to the graces, and their yearning for consideration and judgement, then perhaps we can view these three men as another set of identical people. Performing for the merriment of the artist, the viewer, and us. Sometimes those three identities are conflated. The second series is of the artist employing the technique of exposing the film multiple times to create images of autointercourse. Three stages are shown including felatio and anal intercourse. The final image of this showcase captures a man cumming into his own hand while his doppelganger sits and watches, looking directly out at us at the same time.

And so, maybe we find ourselves at a place of contemplating our relationship to these male bodies. If the artists so wanted to capture these likenesses, what could we be responsible for in our admiration?

This was fun, you should all try.