“MALE” – Exhibition Review

Text: Antigoni Papageorgiou

What comes to mind at hearing the word “male”? Between September 4 and October 3, the Maureen Paley Gallery in London hosts an exhibition titled “Male” curated by Vince Aletti- the well-known, award-winning photographer and critic who works with the New Yorker and Photograph . This is the most recent of series of exhibitions- also covered in a book -designed to explore various representations of masculinity, from a personal and subversive perspective: the rebel, the thug, the pretty boy, the aesthete, the hard. All these attractive stereotypes interact and are undermined before our very eyes. There is not even one neutral picture.

The deliberately promiscuous material shocks and provokes. The photographers participating in the exhibition derive their material from porn sites and vintage porn, as well as from printed sources and old medical records. All these are re-read and reinterpreted in a different way. How is the body transformed and how desire drives the male gaze? Even a chance glance in the street becomes especially charged when exchanged between two males.

The pictures- at times romantic and erotic, at other times fierce and passionate, create an explosive combination for the spectator. What can a boy have in common with a manly worker or a punk dandy? What possibly can they have to say to each other or to us? The purpose of the exhibition is not to define the concept of masculinity. Instead, it leaves it open, fluid, almost without boundaries. Masculinity can be interpreted as something violent, narrow and restrictive. Or, you can have a more gentle and relaxed version.

This postmodern perspective deconstructs the meaning of masculinity and gender. Clear distinctions no longer exist. Sexuality is a source of expression and freedom. There is not only one archetypal male body, but multiple alternatives, in a mixture of ferocity and sweetness.