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