Man Up! Masculinity in Question
at Cerritos College Art Gallery
By Sydney Walters
Through December 5th
Man Up! Masculinity in Question, splices the broad brush of gender binaries and settles into the textured and complex areas of free expression. Twelve artists pack emotional heat as they confront rigid gender expectations and present a different quota for being a complex, creative and affirming human.
Photographs line the wall of the exhibition with mixed media installations hanging between movable gallery walls. An exception on the photography walls is Conrad Ruiz’s watercolor, Tough Lover. Ruiz’s specializes in capturing the machismo energy in sports, gaming and politics. In this abstract work, bubbling, rushing liquid is bisected from a monochromatic black and grey to a blue and white pallette. Ruiz captures the rushing and amorphous current behind adolescent impulses.
In Pilar Gallego’s Garramone Knock-Offs, roughly sewn t-shirts revolve slowly on wooden hangers hanging from the ceiling. Digital images of dress shirts are printed onto the fabric. The repetition of the shirt’s image incites the consumerist notions branding Warhol’s work but this floating closet more closely alludes to nuances wardrobe has as it relates to gender identity. These paper-doll-like t-shirts gesture how “coming out of the closet” sometimes means camouflaging in the same clothes as the cis population for the sake of self preservation.
Amy Elkins has selected images from her Danseur project which are portraits of young male ballet dancers. Shot in Denmark after rigorous training, twelve-year old Lucas, Ludwig and Silas strike dignified poses. Their hairline and sky blue outfits are damp with sweat and their determinate faces testify to their decision to pursue passion over assimilation.
Another photographer, Ryan James Caruthers, fixates on his painful attempts to prove his masculinity in sports while coping with a bone deformity. In After Tennis, a young skeletal man crouches on the the floor holding a vintage tennis racket, the strings loose and twisted. Bright sunlight streams through a window and shadows accentuate every bony protrusion in his back, elbows and hips. Caruthers imagines himself in situations his body would not allow him to experience in childhood.
Internationally recognized artist Cassils engages with the body on an experimental front. Cassils has a two channel projection in the gallery. One panel documents Cassils bodily transformation undergoing strict physical training. In the other, Cassils has slow motion interactions with objects. In one, Cassils lies down, mouth open and a raw egg is slowly poured into their mouth. With slow motion footage and their body transformation played on loop, Cassils highlights their preoccupation with process rather than results as it relates to transgender indentity.
Sharing the room with Cassils’ projection is Badly Licked Bear’s Odalisque/Damocles. The point of a giant white sword hangs inches above a leather chaise recliner. A heavily annotated copy of Kathy Acker’s book Pussy, King of Pirates is propped up on a side table. Here the artist nods at art history’s full repertoire of reclining nudes and also the myth of Damocles, which is essentially a parable of the fragility of wealth.
In the outer annex, Christopher Dacre collages and illustrates posters of his personal war propaganda. After enlisting at the age of seventeen and serving for eight years, Dacre deconstructs the futurism or pro-war dispatches that permeate comics, shows and toys for young boys. One of his posters says, “GIVE UP YOUR RIGHTS FOR SAFETY’S SAKE,” another says, “MISSION SOMEWHAT ACCOMPLISHED.” Artificial Dissemination is a message from a veteran to his younger self.
Man Up!’s full list of artists include Badly Licked Bear, Ryan Caruthers, CAssils, Christopher Dacre, Amy Elkins, Steven Frost, Pilar Gallego, Oree Holban, Wynne Neilly, Conrad Ruiz, Devan Shimoyama and Scott James Vanidestine.