The Manly Pursuit Of Need: The “Classical Nude” Appears Again At You
Paul Stone, Untitled, ca. 1960s, Pencil on brown paper, 12.25 x 9 in. Collection of Arthur Bennett Kouwenhoven.
Several ideas struck me whereas viewing the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art’s current and very formidable present “The Classical Nude” on display downtown in Soho till Jan. 4, 2015.
The first got here from Jonathan David Katz’s introduction to the show, displayed on the opening wall of the present: “For centuries queer folks have looked at classical nudes for secret indicators that communicate to them . . . . Creating spaces where males might contact one another — and women different women –the classical nude was . . . related to the classical past that endorsed, even celebrated same-intercourse want.”
Jonathan David Katz also curated “Disguise/Search” on the National Portrait Gallery in Washington; the first queer-knowledgeable present that the Smithsonian had ever put collectively. Within the “Hide/Search” present Katz tried to drag together from sources covertly to blatantly queer an thought of what queer art is or can be. And within the Leslie-Lohman present we have now one other try to capture the unicorn of queer-informed artwork by bringing in all the coded sources. Strangely, coping with the past in this category of art, this is strictly what it’s important to do.
My very own definition of what is “gay art” (and here I am utilizing “gay” in a more 1950s or 1960s usage to mean the whole lot pertaining to “gay people,” the old term for in the present day’s lgbtq alphabet soup — “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered,” and, lately, questioning or queer) is fairly easy: A piece of artwork that both openly celebrates similar-intercourse need or points to it; or reveals within its house some side of an outsider sexual experience that has been withheld.
In different phrases, it can be queer even if it has little if something to do with “queerness,” however it reveals us an incredible deal that was not talked about back then, which might have included queerness.
A perfect example of this was Katz together with an Albrecht Durer woodcut known as “The Men’s Bath,” from 1498. In 2008, New York’s Museum of Biblical Artwork near Lincoln Center placed on an enormous Durer present to spotlight his biblical illustrations. They also included his “Males’s Bath” collection, about a dozen pictures. They had been a knock-out; I kept wondering did not anybody query the convergence of homoerotic imagery right here–close to-naked men eyeing each other, taking part in with one another seductively, smiling suggestively, and displaying themselves in unmistakable levels of “excitement” barely lined by linen g-strings?
A theme within the collection was the comely naked youth surrounded by dumpy older males leering at him. I’d often questioned about Durer — his breathtakingly, narcissistically handsome, web page-boy coiffed self-portrait has brought about many an art history student to blink — however seeing this woodcut at Leslie-Lohman with the text under it overtly declaring its phallic and queer references (a waterspout posed like a penis, a suggestive flute participant, a man holding a “pink,” and so forth.) puts this work right into a context for which it has long been waiting.
The same for bringing in Anne-Louis Girodet, an excellent, too long missed French painter (1767-1824) seen right here with a small engraving however feted with a significant present in 2006 at the Metropolitan Museum, lauding his rebelliousness, pyrotechnic painting abilities, and surrealist, almost Wagnerian imagery — typically queer as the proverbial 3-dollar invoice.
However the Met may never say that.
So the query is what is gay artwork — one thing that factors to queerness, something that queerness itself creates — or each? Within the second category, a small chalk study of the rear view of a falling nude male determine from 1540 by Michelangelo Buonarroti, borrowed from a private collector, is a star. It’s this little piece of queer genius taking a look at you. It points directly to a small, Paul Cadmus male nude etching. Cadmus is certainly in the queer pantheon. In a big tempera on wood painting called “Bar Italia” finished from 1953 to 1955 (tempera is a slow course of)
Cadmus offers us both views of queer artwork: it factors to itself, and can also be made by a gay artist, in order that it reveals itself off in that gentle. This is certainly one of Cadmus’s famous “commentary” paintings, like “The Fleet’s In,” from 1934 that showed humpy sailors, feral prostitutes, and cruising queens, and that turned an enormous scandal for the U.S. Navy. In “Bar Italia” you might have hustlers, cynical queens, paparazzi, tourists, youngsters–the entire schmere of a Roman street scene, t-shirt sizing all overseen by two classical marble nudes who appear to be blessing the transience of the scene by their own eternal presence.
So my second feeling seeing this show is that irrespective of where the queer eye lands — whether or not it’s on Andrea Mantegna’s “Bacchanal with Silenus” (c. 1490), or Pontormo’s purple chalk drawing of a male again from 1528 (both artists in this show are textual content ebook Janson’s History of Art Historical past topics), or goes to George Platt Lynes’s really gorgeous photos or Nan Golden’s work, or Duncan Grant’s–it is always there. Typically it is just a matter of taking a look at what’s obvious, as in the Platt Lynes, or Robert Mapplethorpe. But it is all the time a matter of how does the queer story come out, and why was it so hidden, so rejected, for so long?
Was it simply sheer embarrassment and concern, or a taboo that only fed itself via its personal repression, something at which the Catholic Church and Christian fundamentalism are skilled? Or is it something deeper, that there is a constant spiritual disaster in humanity that queerness itself understands? That is, a longing to revert to a world of “classical” innocence, even under the bacchanalian excess?
The third concept was how lots of the artists within the show I had actually had some contact with — that’s, in the small gay world before the Internet. I had recognized 4: George Dureau, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Cadmus, and Paul Stone. The final was an actual shocker to me, and I will explain that in a second.
Dureau (1930-2014) I had identified during my three-12 months residence in New Orleans in the early 1980s; I’ve simply realized of his current death. He was one of recent Orleans’s resident geniuses, a tourist attraction in himself–a total kook, eccentric, and, like many New Orleanians, flamboyantly hospitable. I came over to his studio to speak with him t-shirt sizing about using some of his images for a piece I was writing for a brand new York gay mag on working class gay men in New Orleans. He instantly sat me all the way down to bourbon and lunch, and showed me half a lifetime’s work. He talked a mean streak, never shut up, and was fabulous. At the top of two hours, I used to be punch drunk from listening. Later he known as me at dwelling to say he could not let me use a single shot because “it would go towards the privateness of my models. They don’t identity as ‘gay,’ like I do.” We still became good pals, and had lots of different times collectively. Dureau grew to become famous for his pictures of amputees, dwarfs, and a range of Crescent City characters. His fashions trusted him, and he wasn’t going to shred that trust by placing them in a brand new York queer journal.
Robert Mappelthorpe (1946-1989) was a part of my young life in New York; I would see him at louche locations like the baths and sex bars, and uptown at gallery openings or division store events that brought together downtown Warhol and uptown money. I especially liked assembly and speaking with Sam Wagstaff, his handsome, socially-linked older accomplice. Sam was at all times more approachable and genial than Robert.
Paul Cadmus I would met a number of instances before his death at ninety five in 1999. He was an incredibly attractive man who had been a part of the good New York art world in the 1940s and 1950s, bringing together luminaries like the founder of the brand new York Metropolis Ballet, Lincoln Kirstein (Cadmus’s one-time lover, then brother-in-regulation), George Balanchine, Platt Lynes and the writer Glenway Wescott, Charles Henri Ford and Pavel Tchelitchew. What I realized was that Cadmus was part of a small coterie of queer artists, together with George Tooker, who revived the Renaissance use of egg tempera, one of the crucial exacting and painstaking of media.
This brought me to the last of this group, and fairly a shocker for me: the artist Paul Stone (1928-1976). Stone lived most of his life in Savannah, Georgia, the place I was born and grew up. In 1964, at the age of sixteen I determined to become an artist and go to art school. I would heard about Stone, he was then the most famous artist residing in Savannah: I called and requested if I might present him my work. He graciously invited me to his home, in a townhouse close to the local YMCA, on one in all Savannah’s stunning squares; it was no secret that he had married a wealthy younger Savannah woman who was drawn to Stone’s expertise. He was a trim, good-trying man a couple of years youthful than my mom. He spoke in a cultivated Tidewater accent, checked out my scholar portfolio, and mentioned to his wife, who appeared for a second, “Mr. Brass is a follower of the German Expressionists.”
I had no idea if this were true, nevertheless it made me really feel good. He showed me some of his issues, together with a ravishing drawing of a young man in a bathing swimsuit mendacity prone subsequent to a swimming pool. He told me that he had discovered the mannequin at the Y, and identified the softly-shaded planes of his shoulder and pectoral muscles. “I feel this could be very beautiful,” he said, “if you want those things.” I blushed.
He showed me a few of his tempera work, together with a large painting of a young carnival worker bursting out of his T-shirt. Stone had taken up tempera from his infatuation with Andrew Wyeth–he typically went to visit Wyeth in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania. Later, in subsequent conversations, he spoke of these visits as “pilgrimages.” I used to be younger, and not crazy about Wyeth, and i already realized that Paul Stone was concealing manner too much. After I left Savannah a yr later, I hardly thought of him, until I saw a fantastic male nude of Stone’s on this present. Then I discovered the rest of his horrible story.
In 1976, he’d fallen in love with a younger man who rejected him. He walked out into one of many facet streets of Savannah, poured gasoline on himself, and lit a match — immolating himself like a Buddhist monk. I can nonetheless hear his voice speaking about the drawing of the young man mendacity by the Y pool. “These items are beautiful for many who like it.”
We are slowly, finally, coming to know the wonderful narratives of gay art–this show is either a fantastic starting, or just another link in that understanding. It is also a milestone for the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art : 85% of the present is borrowed from other museums and worldwide collections. Because of this the world’s solely museum of gay and lesbian artwork is growing up and becoming acknowledged.
The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is at 26 Wooster Road within the Soho area of Manhattan. It is free to visitors. For extra info: www.LeslieLohman.org.
Perry Brass has revealed 18 books, and is the author of the bestseller The Manly Artwork of Seduction, How to meet, Speak to, and Become Intimate with Anyone, and King of Angels, a gay, Southern, Jewish coming of age novel set in Savannah, GA. His next book would be the Manly Pursuit of Need and Love, How Connecting with Your personal Deeper Self Can Carry You Happiness, Sexual Satisfaction, and Save Your Life in a Troublesome World.
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