An exhibition curated by VINCE ALETTI
4th September -- 3rd October 2010
Maureen Paley Gallery, London
Wolfgang Tillmans Nacken (a) 2007
Geoffrey Chadsey, Graham Durward, Peter Hujar, Stephen Irwin, Patrick Lee, Attila Richard Lukacs, Paul P., Jack Pierson, Gary Schneider, Wolfgang Tillmans, Scott Treleaven, Karlheinz Weinberger
"Male" is the latest iteration of a series of exhibitions and a book that began as--and to a great extent, remains--a personal way to understand and organise the many representations of masculinity. To some degree, that involves both engaging and undermining stereotypes: the jock, the rebel, the thug, the aesthete, the stud, the pretty boy. Not one version of masculinity, but many variations, gathered here side-by-side for a conversation, an exchange--sometimes reasoned, often heated. What do these guys have to say to one another? And to us?
For me, and for many of the artists gathered here, pictures of men are rarely neutral. Desire, with its potential for drama, always complicates things. The male gaze is often at its most intense when directed at another male, and even a casual look can be charged (Wolfgang Tillmans' photographs of two passersby seen from the back). Whether romantic, erotic, or some messy combination of the two, the work is far from cool. It's ardent, obsessed, freaked-out, blissed-out, sexy. Material appropriated from internet hook-up sites (Graham Durward), vintage porn (Stephen Irwin), turn-of-the-century medical records (Gary Schneider), and various, frequently pastiched, printed sources (Paul P., Geoffrey Chadsey, Attila Richard Lukacs) is re-interpreted with a mix of devilish devotion and passionate restraint. The violently disheveled boy from Jack Pierson's "Self-Portrait" series, the stocky working man and quartet of Puerto Rican brothers who posed in Peter Hujar's bare East Village studio, the young beauties in Scott Treleaven's flower-strewn dreamscapes, and the proto-punk dandies Karlheinz Weinberger cultivated in postwar Zurich have nothing and everything in common.
They come together here not to define the concept of maleness but to keep the definition as open and fluid as possible. Masculinity can be a straitjacket, an armour plate, a bad joke. Or it can be loose, light, and vibrant: Something unexpected, something sweet, something wild.
Vince Aletti 2010