The Masculine Masquerade: Masculinity and Representation

by Steven Brophy

Don't wait to see Raging Bull before you experience the most
impressive piece in the List Center's exhibit, "The Masculine
Masquerade: Masculinity and Representation." The multi-media work by
Keith Piper called Another Step into the Arena is much too rewarding
to be put off for that long. Occupying its own gallery space, it
consists of a roped-in boxing ring with television monitors positioned
on its four corners, video projection and slides on the wall and
effective mix of music and taped narration. The monitors show
computer-animated graphics and printed texts.
	The combination of all these elements creates a physical and
psychological space in which the visitor is awash in sensations of the
boxing world, while at the same time looking dispassionately and
critically at the milieu. The commentary keeps returning to details of
the careers of Mike Tyson and Muhammed Ali, exploring how boxing
shaped their lives and the impact they have had on the world because
of their involvement in boxing. But this is not a didactic piece; it
is above all, a work that compels the sensual involvement of its
viewer.
	Explicitly homosexual content is to be found in the large
photographs of Lyle Aston Harris, self-portraits with his brother and
other friends. Even though the subjects are mostly nude, the range of
gender characteristics is potently examined, and the supposed
boundaries between masculinity and femininity revealed to be
remarkably fuzzy. African-American gay male artists continue to be in
the vanguard of the investigation of gender.
	Two extremely large photographs by Clegg & Guttmann are
positively scary. Commissioned by their subjects, these images are
formal portraits of groups of executives, reminiscent of old Dutch
groupings of Burghers. Looking into the faces of these business men
and college deans, you can't help but be disturbed by the almost
belligerent stance they choose to project. Close by are more large
photographs by Tina Barney, of well-to-do men and boys complacently
occupying female-created spaces in which women are conspicuously
absent.
	Many other works in this exhibit will provoke or amuse, like
the sexual bowling balls of Donald Moffett, or the demonstration of
pissing in the snow as an archetypal male statement by Graham Durward.
This exhibit is definitely worth a visit, whether or not you see any
of the accompanying movies. And check out the guide book, edited by
Andrew Perchuk and curator Helaine Posner. With essays by such
commentators as Bell Hooks, Michael Leiniger, Steven Cohan and Simon
Watney, it will deepen your appreciation of the work and thought that
went into this exhibit.

reprinted from in newsweekly

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