Public and Private Stages

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The nude is a notoriously hackneyed art subject, but it was still something of a surprise that several galleries in Chinatown - almost all of which opened on September 8 - had shows featuring naked (or nearly) people. Amy Bessone’s show at David Kordansky has several large paintings, which turn out to be paintings of photographs of nude porcelain figurines from auction catalogues. The press release refers to an interaction between the work and the viewer, who must “weather” a confrontation with naughty bits. Next door to TELIC at Black Dragon Society, Steve Canaday made several colorful, cartoony paintings of women in bikinis with beer, pets, and chubby thighs.

Finally, at TELIC Miguel Angel Reyes solicited audience members to come on stage and pose in a way that was physically revealing. Some spread their legs, others flashed undergarments, and a surprising number just let the flesh all hang out - all in exchange for the drawing of the session made by Reyes. This is Los Angeles, but I have to reiterate a mild astonishment that members of the general public were willing to do this - well, not pose nude so much as do it on a public stage while audience members shot camera phone photos and videos of the spectacle. Interestingly, Amy Bessone (according to Kordansky’s press release) asks what happens as we stop thinking in terms of the “male gaze” and instead turn the gaze upon ourselves?

Jordan Crandall is asking the same question in his exhibition, I think, but in a very different way. Perhaps one of the strangest things about the drawing session was how not awkward it was. It’s not that the publicly stages erotic figure drawings inverted the gaze - the audience members watching and snapping photos refute that I think - but the quotidian feeling of it all make us think about what we (see other people) do online. And so in the back space, Jordan spent the opening interviewing people one-on-one, trying to get them to confess. While the space was private, the session was obviously filmed and the footage was sent in real-time to a television next to the front door of the gallery. In other words, the inversion was there, in the private, but connected back space - the obverse of the public stage.

I won’t go too far into it, but I was also interested in the performative aspect of it all. Both artists, Jordan and Miguel had personal, intimate exchanges with their subjects, producing an experience rather than an object. Footage from the opening will be screening on the television at the front of the space for the duration of Showing.

See also: Continuous and Discontinuous Being by Georges Bataille

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