A love letter to Paul Rosano

Manscape: Man as Subject and Object opened last night at Lora Reynolds Gallery. The group photography and video show is curated by Christopher Eamon and purports to be about “the subjectivity of contemporary male identity.” The work, largely by young women artists, casts the male gaze back on the male, a kind of meta-male gaze that includes a lot of images of flaccid penises. “Just what the art world needs, more penises!” My wise friend Amanda pointed out. And while the works in the show are not bad by any means (in fact there is a suite of photos by John Massey from the late 1970s that is terrific), the concept of the show is pretty flimsy.

During the curator talk Eamon said something to the effect of only recently seeing female artists turning the gaze around on men. It was hard not to raise my hand or clear my throat or something. Instead I tuned out and started thinking about Sylvia Sleigh, the feminist painter who in the 1970s (and up until her death in 2010) took art historical tropes of female objectivity and re-inserted groovy sensitive men. My favorite is Paul Rosano, a man she painted again and again. When I show Paul Rosano Reclining in my art history classes the students almost always audibly gasp.

And why wouldn’t they? After weeks of seeing female nudes in the same reclined position, here we have Rosano laid out, full afro and all. His head is slightly tilted as he stares softly at the viewer. There’s something sweet about Paul Rosano and Sleigh’s depiction of him. I’ve searched for information on Rosano—who is he? Was he an artist? A musician? What’s his hair like today? But have turned up little besides theses images.

Perhaps he’s a lover of modernist furniture?

He’s clearly a fan of denim.

Here he stares impassively at the viewer. Was he getting tired posing on this pillow?

Always reclining.

Paul Rosano is this your personal music blog? If so, did you really think the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album was one of the best albums of 2011?

He appears twice in this painting.

Always strumming the mandolin.

Paul Rosano, who are you? Maybe this is the crux of the condition of what Laura Mulvey famously called “to-be-looked-at-ness.” We’re not supposed to wonder about the object of desire, we’re simply only to desire.

also by Katie Geha

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5 responses to “A love letter to Paul Rosano”

  1. I wonder if Alice Neel’s 1972 relining nude of John Perreault predates these? But the Paul Rosano obsession is something else entirely. Thanks, Katie!

  2. Thank you Jesus for Katie Geha!

  3. Was so so interesting to see these after so many painting of reclining nude females. So how do you think Rosano would look lolling about today as he nears seventy?

  4. Love the responses. What quilt trip does this represent. Duh!

    Katie, you have taken the BBC’s 1972 production, “Ways of Seeing” (also in paperback by John Berger) and the may issue of ARTnews’ theme Naked or Nude directly to the Glasstire sphere of influence. Thanx!

    Fern, being a septuagenerian, lolling about NAKED, regardless of gender, means a personal loss of past self and not wishing to be a NUDE model. Exceptions, of course. Lucian Freud certainly made the run on NUDES of bothe gender.

    Personally in awe of her contributions to an understanding of gender equality.

  5. Meant to say the contributions of Sylvia Sleigh.

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