A glut of naked men


Left, Pierre & Gilles, The Death of Adonis, 1999 from The Naked Man exhibition and right, Pierre & Gilles, Vive la France, 2006 from The Nude Man exhibition

This Spring I saw The Nude Man at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, The Naked Man at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest, and also an exhibition, Orange Human, featuring male nudes by Slovakian artist Svätopluk Mikyta at Deàk Erika gallery in Budapest. At least for me this Spring, the preponderance of female nudes traditionally shown in art has been fully counterbalanced.


Paul Cezanne, Seated Male Nude (Self-portrait), 1910

The Nude Man dealt with the history of the male nude in art since 1800. The Naked Man concerns itself with contemporary representations of the male body, explored thematically in ways that overlapped with and expanded on The Nude Man exhibition. Some works and artists made appearances in both shows; for example, Katarzyna Kozyra’s video installation The Men’s Bathhouse, filmed surreptitiously here in Budapest, was shown in both places. It was not intentional to have two such similar shows at the same time, so perhaps the coincidence suggests a growing interest in themes and dialectics around the male body.

The Bathhouse, Katarzyna Kozyra, 1997

Still from The Men’s Bathhouse, Katarzyna Kozyra, 1997

The male gaze has been much discussed in terms of the female nude, and these shows present an opportunity to consider how the male gaze treats itself and also how the female gaze looks at the male body. Questioning how female versus male nudes are presented, both exhibitions also featured photographs from Croatian artist Tomislav Gotovac’s 2002 ‘Foxy Mister’ series and works by Gilbert and George.

Installation view of Tomislav Gotovac's 2002 Foxy Mister photography series

Installation view of Tomislav Gotovac’s 2002 Foxy Mister photographs at the Leopold Museum

The exhibition at the Ludwig in Budapest, however, perhaps because it was freed from a linear art historical narrative, could deal more interestingly in a thematic approach with the more complicated relations to the body. Anxiety around the aesthetic of the body–whether in conformity or rebellion, and the freedom and vulnerability of the naked body as well as it’s relation to pain is considered. I found some of the body art difficult to watch. Problematizing the relationship to the male body was American artist Paul McCarthy’s Rocky, a 1976 video where the artist in boxing gloves is hitting himself in the head, which is not far from the Image Whipping photograph of Hungarian artist Tibor Hajas, documenting extreme bound and hung postures, just a room over from a video of one of Stelarc’s body suspension performances, in which his body is hung at different points from multiple meat hooks.

Both these museum exhibitions featured early photography documenting the male nude in an artistic or athletic context: think Eadweard Muybridge‘s explorations of motion in the shot-by-shot documentation of a man ascending a staircase, for example, or two men boxing. These photos often hearken back to an athletic Greco-Roman ideal of the male form that was, in the region, reinforced later as the ideal of strength and beauty in Social Realist style. Svätopluk Mikyta, in the ‘over-drawings’ on view at Deàk Erika Gallery, begins with these innocent, athletic depictions of male nudes taken from antique books. Starting from found images, the artist overdraws, commenting on these naked idyllic male images. This latest series, Orange Human, on one hand puts the perfect man on a pedestal by displaying them and on the other tints their skin from the original black-and-white image to create a new, superhuman race.


From Greco-Roman ideal, to tortured anxiety, to this new Futurist race of male beings, the male body has recently been presented in such varied ways, altogether offering a surprisingly rich counterpoint from the relatively unexplored gender.

Chardin and Proust, on the Beauty of the Everday

Still Life with Plums, 1730

Rather I should say: Me, on Chardin and Proust, on the beauty of everyday things like jugs, water, and fruit in an article up on Escape Into Life magazine.  Being able to see the beauty in the commonplace is surely a quality to be valued.  Chardin’s still life above looks nothing like my messy kitchen table–but then perhaps it does more than I can appreciate.

I’d love to hear what you think about the article.  This train of thought spun off my enjoyment of De Botain’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, an enjoyable book I shared earlier this month here and also worth a look.

Ravels in Review Friday

It’s been a long time since I did a Ravels in Review post between my trip to Costa Rica and skipping last week because there was very little that needed to be summed up. It’s so nice to be swinging these art ravels in full force, you won’t even here me rail on the weather. Especially as it is supposed to be a fantastic 71 degrees in NYC today.

But as to these past ravels, you’ll see we have some interesting debates raised as to beauty, what it is and whether society values it, tales of rapscallions both old and new, a review of MoMA’s photography exhibition Into the Sunset, and we even poked our nose across the pond to check out happenings at the Louvre and the situation for art recovery in L’Aquila.
Whew–time to take a breath. I also am excited by the idea of a public cafe cum art studio. So read, enjoy, comment: I always like to hear from people.

If you’re wondering why I’ve said so little about Costa Rica, it’s not that it was a cultural black hole per se. Watching a soccer match between Costa Rica and Mexico proved to be quite the cultural experience, and Costa Rica possesses great natural beauty. Not to mention surfing, zip lining, sloths (like the cute one above), toucans and tons of monkeys. It makes for a wonderful vacation, just not so artsy.

I surfed! (the smallest waves). Anyhow, happy Friday to you all! Enjoy the warm weekend!