Woman Fleeing From Her Youth, 1974
Perhaps what’s startling about Howard Yezerski’s group show “Naked” is not so much the nudity but the wide variety of it. The evolution from taut, youthful bodies to their maturing counterparts is a study in search of lost time. And when 14 markedly diverse artists come together in an exhibit dedicated to the human body — unwrapped and exposed — the results are as disparate as you might expect.
Stephen DiRado rests at the bottom of the generational arc with his bright young things, sunning in black in white on Gay Head beaches. His photographs capture the pinnacle of a sort of carefree indiscretion. His figures slink, casually, across the sand. The sunlight plays with the tension of tight skin; their easy nakedness frolics in sharp contrast to the daylight and the very public setting in which they recline. DiRado’s seaside muses radiate an underlying comfort in regard to their state of affairs; the sense of security is passed to the happy viewer.
So, too, does fellow photographer Peter Hujar endow his human form with undertones of splendid satisfaction. But Hujar’s “Anthony Blonde,” is more
demure; we’re allowed to peer into his private respite. Hujar’s figure reclines on his side upon a slab covered in a thick folded material. The moment is peaceful, and the body beautiful; the scene transcends “nakedness.” Were the figure carved from marble it might feel at home in the Galleria Borghese. But the figure is cast only in the fleeting moment of the flash, and time marches on.
We turn next to Neeta Madahar, stepping from shades of grey into a world of boisterous, satirical Technicolor. Madahar maintains a body of work in which she sets women against wildly colorful, over-feminized floral backgrounds. Playing with gender roles, Madahar embraces and overcomes traditional stereotypes. In “Melanie with Roses,” the artist builds a highly structured setting where the model lounges in a chair, naked except for pink high-heeled shoes. She’s beginning to age; her skin slowly slumps against a background of draped silk. The manual manipulation of the environment is in sharp contrast to the minimalism and effortless of the black and white photographs. There is a sense that Melanie is also confident, but the finish is less relaxed. With Madahar, we’re trying harder to feel comfortable as clothes come off.
Of course, the decline and fall of the human form is also captured in black and white photographs and less literal paintings. John Coplans’ work is remarkable in its rawness. Skin sags with the gracefulness of a life lived in full; wrinkles ripple across a deeply shadowed torso. Coplans’ aging form exudes an air of nobility that is conceivably only awarded for time passed. His “Side Torso Bent with Large Upper Arm” features a model transformed, but with the war wounds to make it worthwhile.
The human form is also deconstructed in paint and sculpture. Robert Feintuch’s oil painting “Last Grapes” laments (in a rather cheeky fashion) fading virility on a vine. In “Bacchus,” Feintuch’s forlorn subject looks longingly at a shriveling bunch of grapes as his watch ticks away on his wrist. The message is clear.
In some cases, the body is removed from time. Rona Pondick’s carbon steel sculpture, “Untitled Animal,” dismantles the human form with a heavy hand, the leg extending beside a nebulous torso. It is rusted over, deliberately inert, palpably sinking into the ground. The lethargy makes for the natural conclusion to an arc born from lithe and virile Vineyard sunbathers.
The Howard Yezerski Gallery is triumphant with “Naked,” not as a celebration of nudity, but as an examination of our individual relationships with the evolving human form.
-Text by Christine Laferriere
The Boston Globe:
|Robert Feintuch, Bacchus, 2006|
“Naked,’’ the summer group show at Howard Yezerski Gallery, playfully investigates the pleasures and mortifications of the flesh. It’s an elegantly hung show. Denise Marika’s video “Leg,’’ in which the artist’s naked leg lies almost painfully atop a pale stretch of fallen tree, is installed across the gallery from photographer Peter Hujar’s slickly beautiful reclining, leggy nude, “Anthony Blonde.’’ In between sits Rona Pondick’s rusty carbon steel sculpture “Untitled Animal,’’ in which a cast of the artist’s leg monstrously conjoins with the torso of a small, seal-like critter. These works are wildly different in concept, but formally in concert.
Other favorites: Emily Eveleth’s painting “Sultan’’ portrays the oozing orifice of a jelly doughnut, but conveys something of the flesh. Photographer Barbara Norfleet offers a startlingly weird color portrait of a wide-eyed, wild-haired naked doll in the grass in “Prepubescent With Pansy.’’ Robert Feintuch’s sad, sweet painting “Bacchus’’ offers a profile of a middle-age fellow in his boxers, standing but stooped, holding a small bunch of grapes out in front of him.
John O’Reilly’s “The Bathers’’ has as its backdrop a reproduction of a Degas pastel. We see the beginning of the curve of a nude hip rising from the red tub, and O’Reilly seamlessly attaches that hip to the back of a man embracing another man in a photo, and they lean directly into another torn photo of a splayed hairy leg. O’Reilly’s montage artfully knits together artistic dreaming with erotic longing - just the right theme for an exhibit of nudes.
- Text by Cate McQuaid
- Text by Cate McQuaid