Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘gay

Richard Hawkins – Third Mind

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Art Institute of Chicago

Gay desire isn’t just about pretty boys.

We haven’t posted in forever; we’re going to make it up to you with a gay show! Everyone is slapping the National Portrait Gallery’s ass for being oh-so-brave for tackling the controversial topic of gay desire in American art. Because no one has dared go gay lately.  Oh wait, yes they have, here, here, and here.  And that’s just at one museum East Coasters.  Museums in the middle of the country have gone gay too; here in Chicago, Richard Hawkins – Third Mind is currently on view at the Art Institute.

This is what we gleaned from the intro walltext:   The Andy Warhol Foundation awarded a grant for this show, which is a not-so-unobvious clue that this show is going to be gay gay gay.  Third Mind, is Hawkins’s first museum survey, but NOT A RETROSPECTIVE, he’s a mid-career artist and isn’t going anywhere so let’s make that clear.   According to the text, the subtitle (Third Mind) “serves as a testament to the duplicity and ambiguity that characterizes his work,” but is probably more a play on this.  I don’t know if Hawkins work is as duplicitous and ambiguous as the curators are claiming; to me it’s not that unclear…more on that later.  Also the organization of the show is addressed:

Due to the decidedly circuitous nature of Hawkins’s art, linear chronology alone is an insufficient mode of presentation. Thus, this exhibition is laid out in a sequence of ‘rooms’ made up of visual and thematic comparisons that provide just one of many possible bases for comprehending and appreciating the complexities of Hawkins’s practice within the larger historical context provided by the encyclopedic setting of the Art Institute.

What a revelation!—Not. I love it when museums explain themselves, but here there doesn’t really seem to be anything to explain; the curators grouped works from various series of Hawkins work together, aaaand done.

From this first grouping of works (a collage series from 2000) two things are very clear: one, Hawkins excels in collages (paintings not so much, and sculptures sometimes). Two, the majority of people who love to buy Hawkins are from New York, Miami (not a shocker), LA (not shocking), and also Chicago, since apparently someone has been on a spending spree on behalf of the Art Institute.

Bottom - Urbis-Paganus-IV.9.1, (2009)

The next series of collages is funny as hell, and pretty gay.  The series combines various cutouts of Greek and Roman sculptures with texts praising this or that dick or ass of the sculptures.  Hawkins has no problem pointing out which Greek derriere he prefers most; his sassy comments on men’s physiques are the definition of being a bitchy gay.  Take that National Portrait Gallery with your “codified” signs of homosexual desire.

Zombies are the new vampires – Disembodies Zombie Head(s) (1997)

In the next room are several more series.  The Hawkins work I knew previously is the Disembodied Zombie Heads series.  Look here’s one from a MOCA show, how considerate of MOCA to lend it.  And if one Disembodied Zombie Head weren’t enough, and if three Disembodied Zombie Heads weren’t enough (the Hammer loaned not one, but two), the Art Institute has gathered six total (the other three come from LA too).  I think six Disembodied Zombie Heads is just overkill (but zombies are hot in Hollywood right now).

Some newly acquired Hawkins sculptures.

Several sculptures are scattered earlier on in the show, but the last room is mostly devoted to them.  House of Mad Professor (2008) from the Hammer, Crepuscule #1 & #3(1994), Dilapidarian Tower, (2010) and some other haunted houses litter the space.  The sculptures are engaging, mostly because they have elements of Hawkins’s collage practice in them.  And don’t forget, this show continues in Gallery 291…

If you want to see some of Hawkins’s paintings you have to go to the other side of the Modern Wing, up a flight of stairs, and navigate to the correct room.  It seems like the curators were trying to hide Hawkins paintings, and personally I think it’s because these paintings aren’t Hawkins’s best work. Organizing the exhibition with this divide only makes this fact more obvious to me.   (Apparently they do sell; they’re still listed on Hawkins’s LA gallery’s website.)   Had the curators chosen only 10 butt sculpture collages, and only three zombie heads, maybe there would have been room to put Hawkins’s paintings in with the rest of the show.

Customized of Readymade (2005) & Burberry Schoolgirl (2005) - In gallery 291 for a reason?

The many similar examples from the same collage series are excessive and unneeded; the effect makes this seem more like a gallery show and less like a thoughtfully curated museum exhibition.  Proof of this is in the pictures.  The below installation shots aren’t from the Art Institute, but from several recent gallery shows.  This is pretty much what the show at the Art Institute looks like.

Installation shots, but of what?

Maybe the curators wanted to show how widely Hawkins is collected, or maybe they wanted to showcase the shopping spree someone has been on. Many of the works in the show are labeled as newly acquired for the museum, proving that museums are active in the contemporary art market world (although perhaps only as recipients of works that a donor chooses to acquire).  Speaking of donors, let’s take a look at the lenders, there are a lot of them, and most of them are from New York, Miami and LA:

Craig Robins – Miami developer (and CE’mO) who loves artistic projects
Blake Byrne – Former-MOCA-board-member-‘mo
Kourosh Larizadeh & Luis Pardo – donate to ‘MOCA in LA
Goetz Collection – Munich, collection of Ingvild Goetz, who is a lady (exception to the trend)
John Morace & Tom Kennedy – New York ‘mos who sponsor a lot of shows
David Campbell – I hope this is the right old guy
Greene Naftali Gallery – Hawkins’s New York Gallery
Paul Chan – New York artist, also represented by Greene Naftali
Robert Lade & Richard Telles – LA ‘mos(?) and one half of Hawkins’s LA gallery, Richard Telles
Jim Isermann – LA artist, also represented by Richard Telles Gallery…
Tiffany Tuttle & Richard Lidinsky – Un-goggle-able couple
Dennis Cooper – LA, writer-of-Closer-‘mo
Barry Sloane – Big-shot LA realtor, who’s sold a Frank Lloyd Wright
Peter Norton – Gold-shitting heterosexual, of the Peter Norton Family foundation, and Norton Antivirus
And some Private Collection(s) in Chicago

So a bunch of ‘mo are buying Hawkins work, which isn’t surprising since the work is very generous (saturated even) with homosexual desire.  Let’s talk about desire:  When I was taking notes on my blackberry, I overheard a gallery walkthrough in progress.  A young museum educator talking with some silver-haired ladies, and I thought, wow this must be awkward.  But she handled it amazing well.  She recounted how she had given a tour to a highschool group and asked them to consider the idea of desire, how it is what you want and sometimes what you can’t have, and to question what is keeping you from having it.  Sources confirm that Hawkins is not dealing with unfulfilled desires.  After covering the subject matter of Greek and Roman sculptures, Hawkins began to focus on images on Asian boys.  Hawkins does indeed have a little Asian manfriend, so to his desires seem more fulfilled than un, mostly because little Asian men love him back.

Hope this post was as good for you as it was for me.  Why are the gay posts the best posts?

– H.I.

P.S. To my LA readers, Third Mind is headed to Los Angeles (shock of all shocks) after it closes in Chicago, so head over to the Hammer in February.

Urbis Paganus III (2009)– So many things you love all in one artwork Keith.

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Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

As promised, part two of the “gay” shows at LACMA.  But first, let’s discuss the gift shop that bridges the Eakins exhibition with the Opie exhibition.  LACMA, it seems, has been getting more and more brash with their gift shops, Pompeii’s gift shop was a smorgasbord of Italianate tourist crap, at least the Baldessari giftshop had some integrity with those clever erasers.  Let’s let the pictures speak for themselves.

Porn set or museum gift shop?

Okay I’m not really going to let the pictures speak for themselves; just look at those lockers! This is no longer a museum giftshop but a cheap set from a gay porn that takes place in a lockerroom.  Yes you can buy some related books on the two artists, and yes you can purchase some limited-edition Opie prints, but you can also buy LACMA jerseys and LACMA gym bags (sorry you can’t buy them online).  Why would anyone want to buy these items, especially when they don’t even have Baldessari’s logo on them?  When I asked the giftshop attendant if anyone had purchased a LACMA jersey, she said that to her knowledge no one had.  Hope they didn’t order too many of those LACMA jerseys.

Figure(s) and a landscape.

Out of the gift shop one enters into the Opie exhibition.  I don’t know whether I came in through the end, or should have gone through the other way, but I don’t think it mattered.  The first landscapes I saw were a series of surfers from 2003.  Several large framed photos were hung together to create a long horizon; the images practically disappeared into the muted blue walls of the gallery. In another gallery, sunlight (through glass bricks, a building material I think is SO eighties, but is apparently LOVED here in Chicago) illuminated the space and several river and forest landscapes. Sort of boring, where’s the gay stuff?

Contemporary symbols of masculinity waging battle.

In the last room, a cavernous space in the Art of the Americas building, which is usually arranged with temporary walls, was the “gay” stuff: photographs of football players.  High school football players, so let’s be careful because some of these jocks are still jailbait.  This is the major content of the show.  Wide compositions of helmeted players attempting firstdown look like epic battle scenes in this scale, especially compared to TV coverage of games which is usually areal views.  These large landscapes (with figures in them) are punctuated in the room by close up portraits the young men.

My friend who accompanied me (and who also has a thing for highschool football players) was torn between his attraction to these young men with their virile athleticism, and the fact that most of them had disgusting braces, and bad cases of acne.  I wondered if the subjects of these portraits know who Catherine Opie is, that she’s a lesbian, and that she had turned them into objects of homosexual desire, or at least objects of my friend’s homosexual desire.  Like a good blogger, I also wondered where all these photos had come from.

Hot and on loan: Tyler and Sean J.

Tyler (2007) and his farmer’s tan had come from across town, from the Hammer, many of the photos were here courtesy of the artist and her gallery.  Two of these portraits are on loan from private collectors.  The Justin-Bieber-haired Dusty (2007) had been loaned from Gerry Rich, and the ab-displaying Sean J (2008) had come from Eugene Sadovoy. Here is a funny headline about Rich considering this discussion, as well as some shots of his abode.  And Sadovoy seems to like California artists despite being an Eastcoaster who works for the Guggenheim.

The exhibition was curator by the still-new-ish Wallis Annenberg Photography Department curator Britt Salvesen.  I must say I much prefer this show to some of her previous work at LACMA.  Compared to New Topographics the scale of the works compared to the scale of the space is much more appropriate.  No tiny black and white photos on huge white walls here.

– H.I.

Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

This is what the fuss is all about.

To my readers: No more posts on LA exhibitions for a while (other than this one and the one to follow); I am now curled up next to a space heater in Chicago, while the rest of you complain about the amazingly hot weather in LA, boohoo.

Admittedly I coerced my best friend to come with me to see these shows (Opie next time) by selling them to him as the “gay shows at LACMA.”  They’re not really “gay” shows, but both have material that might be characterized as homoerotic, and maybe that’s why LACMA curators felt they needed to include the following at the entrance of the Manly Pursuits:

Warning Adult Material. (No joke.)

This begs to question—where!? I don’t see any adult material, unless you mean those paintings and photographs that have naked nude male figures in them.  Is this warning necessary?  Is it there because they’re naked guys? I don’t see labels warning about the naked women elsewhere in the museum.  Where’s the warning sign in the renaissance galleries for that painting of that slut Danae and the golden shower?

Try explaining what a golden shower is to your kids.

Moving on from that unnecessary warning, the always clever exhibition designers at LACMA have come up with inventive signage.  In the entryway a large title banner is hung from a complex rigging of ropes and pulleys.  The didactics in the exhibition are printed on thick canvas (this sailboat not the canvas you paint on), and hung from punctured grommet holes. Very wood shop and very manly I supposed.

Heterosexual exhibition design.

The exhibition is organized into genres of sport: rowing, swimming, hunting and sailing, equestrian, boxing and cycling, and wrestling.  This method is both user-friendly and functionally allowed for smaller and larger spaces.  This is not a full-scale retrospective, but a focused exhibition on one genre of Eakins’s work; this does not mean this is a small show or that it is lacking in works.

The first room, on rowing, had a plentitude of works: completed paintings, preparatory works, and sketches.  Eakins fascination (even obsession) with accurate perspective is evident in these works and the combination of works showcased the artist’s anal-retentive process.

No dick in this pic.

The swimming room is the room that I guess warranted the warning label (maybe also the wrestling room).  There is only one completed oil painting in the room, The Swimming Hole (1884-85), the only Eakins work on the subject matter. The canvas wall text informs that Eakins relied on photographs for this composition; this is obvious since the painting is accompanied in this room by so many photographs.  The photos are of “real” (LACMA’s word choice not mine) naked men, instead of idealized nudes (is that why we need the label?).  All of the photos are preciously small and require close proximity to view them properly.  The photographs come from various places (oh hey a loan from the Getty!) and are labeled as modern inkjets from original glass negatives.  I call them soft-core-porn (kidding, kinda).

Porn so small, you can barely see it.

The main attraction, on loan from the Amon Carter Museum, has chairs placed in front of it (chairs I’m pretty sure came from a conference room inside LACMA).  The wall text also explains that Eakins himself is one of the men in the painting, making this a clusterfuck of viewer-viewed-exhibitionist-voyeur-spectator-participant relationships.  I would like to point out that the finished oil painting has no visible penis in it, so what is the big deal?

Eakins was apparently an avid swimmer, or avid skinny dipper.

I blew through the hunting and sailing room, and the equestrian room, in pursuit of more adult content slash gay porn (still kidding LACMA), which I found in the boxing and cycling room.  This room had more naked photographic studies to satiate my desires (haha) and several large finished works in it including Saltut from the Addison Gallery of American Art (which has been linked to Gerome’s Police Verso which was just in LA), Between Rounds from Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the largest work, Taking the Count from Yale.  Pat on the back for being responsible and looking at where all these loans came from. This room was set with a series of benches arranged as they might be for a spectator sport like boxing (oh yeah that’s the topic of this room).

Art-viewing arena.

On to the wrestling room: This room is organized around LACMA’s The Wrestlers, it is a new acquisition and the central reason why LACMA organized this show.  More chairs from a LACMA conference room were set in this gallery to allow for longer views (also so viewers could get their rocks off) of the works, which include preparatory paintings (one owned by LACMA prior to the acquisition), and more steamy photographs. Damn LACMA I’m all hot and bothered now, all this adult content.

Porn from the permanent collection.

And after I’d already jizzed my pants LACMA really delivered with Tad Beck’s installation Palimpsest.  In a separate room, several works from Beck’s Palimpsest series were displayed, acting in dialogue with Eakins’s work. The subject matter of the male nude (the adult content remember) is not the only similarity Beck explains in an Unframed post.

Palimpsest 1, un(?)arguably homoerotic.

The last room of the exhibition is a reading room.  A really sad little reading room, which had a book on Eakins’s Grafly Album (sexy stuff), some terribly cheap Xeroxed essays, but oh wait, two iPads to read the pseudo-exhibition catalogue on.  This is a big show (in scale and importance), with lots of loans—I can’t believe there isn’t an accompanying exhibition catalogue (is one is in the works?), maybe the organizers didn’t have any funds left for publications.  But they had funds for those iPads…

The unfortunate gift shop and Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape will have to wait for next time.  But believe me the gift shop was UNFORTUNATE and less noteworthy the Opie show did have figures and landscapes (and more gay stuff).

– H.I.