Tuesday, October 23, 2012


These observations are in reaction to the exhibit of nude male portraits at the Leopold Museum in Vienna.   Bold comments are mine.  The others are quotes.
There was enough public objection to the posters that red tape was needed to restore decorum.

It’s okay to be naked if you’re dead.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re Adam.
It’s okay to be naked if you have wings.

“The endless flood of images intrinsic to today’s life-style has given unprecedented prominence to the depiction of male nudes.”

Because of the fitness movement we all go to the gym and therefore the shower and the locker room. 
Because of male-based television like “Oz”, we’ve already seen naked men, albeit big, strong, intimidating ones -- possibly black.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re a  body-builder.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re really sexy and in a perfume ad. 

At the same time seemingly firmly established categories such as “masculinity,” “body” and “nakedness” are apparently being redefined on a broad social basis, resulting in a new interpretation of male gender roles.  

It’s okay to be naked if you’re a Middle Eastern prisoner being tortured and you’re half the size and much darker than the guards.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re a statue or painting, esp. if it’s really old.

It’s okay to be naked if you’re very powerful.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re as naked as women have always been depicted.
It’s okay to be naked if it’s political comment.

It’s okay to be naked if you’re depicted by a famous artist.
Schiele began to make his own body the object of his paintings. 

It’s okay to be naked if you’re depicted by yourself.
Schiele’s male nudes can be seen as unconditional explorations of the self, as expressions of inner emotions and as body images situated between vulnerability and provocation.  

It’s okay to be naked if you are making a statement of defiance and provocation.
It’s okay to be naked if you are shown to be vulnerable.  (You probably are, esp. if you’re at the doctor’s office.)

It’s okay to be naked if you are shown as an example of penetrating (not literally) psychological insight.
Gersli followed the tradition of Christian iconography with the first of his two life-sized self-portraits, while he elevated the fragmentation of form to a principal in the second with his wild brushstrokes.

Kolig was captivated by the depiction of naked young men all his life and dedicated his drawings almost exclusively to this motif.
It’s okay to be naked if everyone is gay -- whatever the criteria for that is.  Young?  HOW young?

Ever since the Renaissance, the naked male body was considered to be an important object of study and an indispensible part of the academies’ curriculum, which was one of the reasons that women were denied access to art academies for so long.
It is now okay to be a naked model for a female artist.

The presentation affords insights into the life drawing rooms of European art academies from the Baroque period onwards.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re in upper class and luxury surroundings.

“. . . all eyes were focused on the naked man, though he himself was the only one to remain naked.”
It’s okay to be naked as long as everyone else is clothed and watching.

“ . . . restrictions prompted the emergence of various artistic strategies that reintepreted ancient ideals under the guise of antiquity.  This is illustrated in the exhibition with examples from the period about 1800 up until the present.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re an African, an American Indian, a Samoan, or some other primitive with a spear in your hand.

Klimt believed that nakedness and truth coincided in the “Nuda Veritas,” 
It’s okay to be naked if it’s truthful.  (I assume Bacon and Freud are both painting truthfully.)

Expressionism brought with it a radical examination of the self, which saw the artists exposing themselves both physically and existentially and exploring the use of their own nudity as a sphere of political influence.
It’s okay to be naked as a demonstration that you belong to yourself and are trying to figure out who you are in a confusing time.  (Maybe you can’t decide what to wear.)

The battle of female desire and male denial is not often addressed in the visual arts, but it has its historical sources both in the biblical story of “Joseph and the wife of Potiphar” and in the ancient mythological traditions of “Narcissus” and “Adonis.”  [Joseph was sold to Potiphar’s wife to be her sex slave, but refused her.  Early human trafficking.]  
It’s okay to be naked even if you’re a sex slave who is unwilling to comply.

It’s okay to be naked while you admire yourself in the mirror.

Nowadays, female artists also have access to male nude models and are free to interpret and depict the motif at their will, currently often with a view to deconstructing gender and gender asymmetries.
It’s okay to be naked if you know your contemporary French philosophers.

In the second half of the 19th century depictions of naked people in nature abounded.  These renderings had their origin in a reassessment of man’s position i nature.  Based on early depictions such as Durer’s “the Men’s Bath,” the exhibition features many eminent examples of such encounters and get-togethers of naked men, from Cezanne to Mapplethorpe.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re out in the woods or at the beach or swimming or in the bath or pouring water on yourself or splashing someone.  (It’s sorta girly to just wade, though.)

Once I walked into an art gallery showing an intriguing collection of drawings made using sepia-red ink and a whittled tree twig for a dip pen.  They were nudes of a not-quite-young man with red hair, beautifully and gracefully drawn, quite realistic.  In fact, I recognized the model, which was a surprise since I didn’t know he ever posed at all, much less nude.
It’s okay to be naked if you’re my brother and the artist is your best friend.

1 comment:

Art Durkee said...

I really, really liked this, I bet I'd like the sow, too. I've been thinking and working with very similar ideas as a photographer and artist. A lot of that remains controversial, and doesn't have bitvq select audience. Nonethesll these are powerful and well said ideas. Thanks.