John Waiblinger Explores the Beauty of Men
Los Angeles Center for Digital Art
Art Talk with Prof. Gregory Mattson
Saturday October 20th 130-3pm
On view through November 2nd
By Genie Davis
John Waiblinger is a true poet. He writes sonnets and love poems not in words but through his art, creating lyrical odes to men, both body and soul.
At LACDA through November 2nd, The Beauty of Men (an iconography of desire) is a graceful, lovely exhibition. His intimate, tender, and discreet images take men’s bodies and places them in floral settings and among the lush patterns of nature.
In doing so, he transforms what were once highly sexualized, pornographic images,and makes them into something transcendent: desire has become love; arousal merely a way to convey utter adoration.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this work is the softness it conveys and pairs with strength. We are used to thinking of men as tough or hard, strong or capable; bodies firm and muscular. Waiblinger takes these bodies, and by weaving them with resilient vines and encasing them in tendrils, leaves, petals, branches – he shows us both the strength and fragility joined in all nature. He gives the viewer insight past the bodies he depicts and into the spirits they contain.
Whether coupled, jubilant, pensive, or seen through multiple combined images and stances, it is an inner spirit that these men convey, and which Waiblinger celebrates. The old adage that beauty comes from within has never been more true. And in perceiving that, in a quest for showing that inward beauty, Waiblinger visualizes it externally in the flora and fauna that surround the men.
As art, the work has the quality of magical realism, of heightened fantasy, and a dream-like visualization of spirit and skin. The artist creates his own mythology; the men’s images and the patterns of nature are conjoined in a shimmery wash of color –silver, sepia tones, rosy taupe, gold. They are the colors of skin in shadow, rippling reflections in a daydream, through polarized sunglassses or in a pool of water. They are refracted through Waiblinger’s unique vision, yielding poetic cadences in a glance or the gesture of a hand; repeated image blossoms like a rose, or like a refrain.
Waiblinger’s work is both passionate and pure, as he adorns these men with leaves and blossoms, shadows and tints them, and digitally manipulates their world into one of high romance. They evoke Greek and Roman statuary.
In elevating these men, he weaves a poet’s elliptical spell around them; we do not have to fully comprehend their individual stories to perceive their deeper meaning: to Waiblinger the beauty of these men should not be objectified or taken to the lowest common denominator of carnal desire. Rather, it should be sung and revered: the human body and the human capability to appreciate its beauty are all of one poetic piece. And he gives us these images as people, spirits, bodies, hearts and hope. He imagines and presents their poetry, their relationships – with others and within themselves.
This is Waiblinger’s first solo show, and in it he takes the carnal and renders it sublime. There is little more one could ask of a poet, a writer of love songs, or of an artist whose visual images are shaped to sing and soar.