Male Trouble is a collaborative project by Geoff Carter, Christian Siekmeier and Jan Wandrag. The artists, who come from the United States, Germany and South Africa respectively, met during their graduate Studies at the School of Visual Arts. Each questions the notion of what being a man means, in general or idiosyncratically, in his work. The exhibition intertwines three distinct voices and contributes to the ongoing discussion and questioning of manliness. While each artists works reference photography in one way or another, Male Trouble includes drawing and mediated imagery as well as lens-based art.
Male Trouble will be presented at the School of Visual Arts Westside Gallery at 141 West 21 Street, New York from Saturday, January 24 through Saturday, February 14. The opening reception, to which you are cordially invited, will be on Wednesday, January 28, from 5 to 7pm.
A presidential made-for-television stunt involving an aircraft carrier, a beefed-up flight-suit crotch, and several hundred applauding soldiers signals the cowboy is back in town. This return of the glorified male, in contrast to the success of shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, suggests the complexities of redefining what it is to be of the un-fair sex. Male Trouble has no intention of defining an absolute stance. Chris, Geoff and Jan rather offer their experiences of this new, more fluid zeitgeist based on personal histories and relationships with boys/girls and with family/society. This show is about how the artists, as men, relate to the people and spaces around them.
Jan, Chris and Geoff have no desire to jump back into any categorical male box. In fact, their work understands itself as a protest against such attempts. They wonder if talking about your feelings is too nineties and if identity politic critiques are out of fashion. Coming of age in the late 1980s and 90s the artists have intimately experienced some of the last two decades most pivotal events. They have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, South Africas reconciliation and Bill Clinton lying about his sex life on CNN. So what does manliness hold for these artists today? What does it mean to be a 21st Century man?
On display at Male Trouble:
Christian Siekmeier presents Hunting: Me - Hunting: You an installation of color photographs taken by the artist and from his fathers collection of snapshots:
I create a visual dialogue between myself and my father based on our individual obsessions with photography and hunting. The differences between us, it turns out, are marginal; both of us accumulate trophies as kinds of self-referential confirmation. Both activities are reflections of our immensely different understandings of masculinity. My fathers and my own photographs are set in the German countryside and relate to my upbringing. Hunting: Me - Hunting: You presents a different take on the old story of father and son. The photographs made by my father show various hunting rituals: hunters, dead animals, weapons and landscapes. In my photographs I assume my fathers point of view by shooting from his deer-seats. From these elevated vantage stands he aims at the animal as he hides in the foliage of the German forest, though in my photographs both hunter and prey are absent.
Jan Wandrag presents digital prints and video of his street photography. The centerpiece of the installation shows five good-looking young men, collected from five different western countries, in a larger-than-life composite group portrait.
"I like to think of my work as non-straight street photography. Where most street photography aims to present an objective view of people in public spaces, I show what I like looking at on the street and how I see it. I take pictures of boys and put them through my own brand of media processing. The end results look like appropriated images from magazines and television. I think a lot about the images we see of men in the media. I think about how guys present themselves in this media saturated world and how they relate to other men and to themselves. And I wonder who will be Peoples sexiest man of 2004."
Geoff Carter presents large-scale drawings, based on photographic images:
I use pictures of my girlfriend, Zeynep, and myself to explore themes such as love, sex, hate, and death. My intention is to transform images of us, based on actual events and situations, into fictional characters in fictional situations. The hand-written text and images in these drawings focus on the dynamic between a man and a woman in a couple, but are presented from the mans perspective.
I see the physical presence and quality of the drawings as a representation of masculinity. A vigorously additive process followed by an equally vigorous subtractive process creates this physical presence. This process refers to stereotypical associations of men with muscle and force. The transferred image has a quality that is similar to graphite and upon initial inspection it appears to be a drawing. Sometimes the photographic element is completely apparent other times it is extremely subdued. The tension between photography and drawing is also meant to reference the tension between male and female characters.
Male Trouble is a valuable contribution by three emerging artists to the expanding discussion around masculinity in the visual arts. In times of growing socio-political conservativism it is increasingly important for young artists to take a position and to challenge these troubling trends. Christian Siekmeier, Geoff Carter and Jan Wandrag have taken their stand.
The artists thank Marvin Heiferman, Rachel Gugelberger and Charles Traub for their curatorial and practical support of this project.
To see samples of Geoff, Chris and Jan's work please click on their names.