Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Naked and the Dude

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  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    Eye the Jury...
    what artless peon doesn't enjoy
    a well, well-hung male nude...

    I understand it's also easier for a male
    to be convicted (of public indecency?)
    for being publicly naked than a woman.

    The perils of the hung-jury system?

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The picture of Mika in question - NSFW!

    And that being the first link I've felt the need to label that way probably explains why it's not in this exhibition.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    And that being the first link I've felt the need to label that way probably explains why it's not in this exhibition.

    Not submissive in any way, but refusing to conform to a particular masculinity in order to do so.

    Anyway, it isn't art. Art is what nice people look at.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    You know I look at this stuff with a different eye.

    Mika's picture looks odd to me not because it's a full frontal male nude but because the fake boobs are so unreal. That is part of the art I know but I guess it just doesn't strike a chord with me for some reason.

    I grew up seeing naked/nude people all the time. The naturist was a magazine I'd look at in the hope (vain I know in both senses) of seeing a picture of myself. None of the pictures in there, man woman or child, were remotely sexual. But some were art and all were real in a way that the exhibition pieces were not.

    What strikes me about the pictures you showed was the weird aversion to the real human form. Why must bits be hidden or disguised? In the end, for me, it makes the art in question flawed and lacking in some way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I love Mika and pretty much everything he (ahem) stands for, but that picture doesn't quite work for me. In my head I hear his haka, "Tenei taku ure, whakatü rite taiaha," and I look at the portrait and that taiaha just isn't whakatü at all. I mean, it's nice and all, but somehow I feel it should be standing to (our) attention instead of lying down on the job.

    Y'know, as part of the artistic composition of the whole thing.

    Because he's not contrapposto at all: he's squared-off, balanced, vertically aligned, and tense. Where a viewer might expect, or desire, a corresponding tension and firmness at the centre of the image, it all just sort of... falls down, in a sweet humble little bundle of bathos.

    Whereas what's so weirdly hot, ah, I mean, artistically riveting about Mr Jolly Hockey-Sticks from the previous link is that there's an undeniable solidity about his supplementary sports equipment. Even if it's pointing the wrong way.

    And yet perhaps that's the whole point of the Mika portrait: masculinity undone, softness where you'd expect hardness, as above so (not) below, etc. Perhaps most viewers come to the portrait assuming it's a female nude, and so the necessary surprise as their eyes work their way down comes best as a stealthy jolt, rather than BOOYA!

    Still, I reckon if the medium were wood (as it were) rather than photography, erectness would be a given. And I would so love to have seen the jubilant "fuck me!" energy that a little counter-gravity would have lent to this particular image.

    [Wonders if there are out-takes from the portrait session that would fit the bill...]

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    The state of New South Wales is on track to remove the defence of artistic merit from the law, despite the fact that it has only been used twice in NSW history, both unsuccessfully.

    That's going to make a lot of images NSFNSW.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    NSFNSW

    Gold

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19743 posts Report Reply

  • Leigh Kennaway,

    I recall reading of a case where a husband and wife walked naked down Queen St (Auck) in the late '70's or early '80's, and while both were charged with public indecency, only the male was convicted.

    That was Winston Tringham and his wife - he was a lovely guy who ran the remedial reading programme at Mount Albert Grammar in 1978. He was an astonishingly radical breath of fresh air in an incredibly staid institution.

    Western Bays • Since Feb 2007 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Sayana,

    Because he's not contrapposto at all: he's squared-off, balanced, vertically aligned, and tense. Where a viewer might expect, or desire, a corresponding tension and firmness at the centre of the image, it all just sort of... falls down, in a sweet humble little bundle of bathos.

    Whereas what's so weirdly hot, ah, I mean, artistically riveting about Mr Jolly Hockey-Sticks from the previous link is that there's an undeniable solidity about his supplementary sports equipment. Even if it's pointing the wrong way.

    I just want to say - that's a wonderful bit of writing.

    Since Sep 2008 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Regarding NSFW imagery being potentially the reason that portraits like Mika's weren't included in the exhibition ... unless we're one of the lucky few, it's not our workplace. :-)

    I dunno, you see those nudie Greek and Roman statues in 3 dimensions; it is quite odd that an exhibition ostensibly about nudity and nakedness would avoid everyone's pink bits so assiduously.

    In terms of nudes, I've always loved Goya's statement with the nude Maja. After the outcry over his first effort, he repainted her clothed. Of course, the clothing may well not be there: absolutely nothing is left to the imagination.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Funnily enough, I'm in Christchurch at the moment. I would love to see this exhibition but I don't think that's going to happen, so thanks for the preview, Emma. I think that portrait of Mika is a particularly lovely one, flaccidity and all. I think the lack of turgidness adds to the faux innocence of the picture. As for painters of the female form,, my favourites have to be some Rembrandt, some Renoir. Some Lautrec, some Courbet. Old skool? Most assuredly, but they were shocking in their day. Scandalous, one might say.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/Toulouse-lautrec_two_half-naked_women.jpg

    http://www.metmuseum.org/special/gustave_courbet/images/courbet_10.L.jpg

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    There is no shortage of nude males in art, here or overseas. The selection show in this exhibition probably reflects what was available to the curators, works from the Gallery's collection.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    There is no shortage of nude males in art, here or overseas

    Yes.This Lady often painted nudes as an example, of both sexes modelling.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Sandra Chesterman's book, FigureWork : the nude and life modelling in New Zealand art of 2002 is a good survey of what has been happening here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    .This Lady often painted nudes as an example, of both sexes modelling.

    Those are lovely. And the era in which she painted is pretty much where the male nudes in the exhibition reappear after their post-Renaissance absence.

    This is, I think, the only time I've done a column like this without doing any research first. I didn't want my reading to colour, or indeed change, my own perceptions, what I'd seen. I don't have any art history, but I do have a pretty good grasp of Victorian social and lit history, and I struggle to think where you could have exhibited male nudes then, at least in England and the colonies.

    So this morning I did a little reading and poking about, and found that as soon as I started looking for information about male nudes in art history, I was reading Gay History. But I found this and this interesting. (Some classic 'hide the sausage in the Burne-Jones, too.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Male nudes appear in mythological and religious art, just like they always did. The preconception that the Victorians had issues with the male nude is largely a reflection of contemporary prejudice against the Victorians.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    I heard the statues were originally painted to look lifelike and only through the decay of their society do we have the unpainted rawness and broken limbs etc.

    Anyone know?

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I heard the statues were originally painted to look lifelike and only through the decay of their society do we have the unpainted rawness and broken limbs etc.

    You mean Greek statues? It's a very vexed question in art history, but I think it is generally accepted now that they were painted. Of course with some of them you can still see traces of the paint, especially around the eyes. Later statuary inspired to the Greeks, like Michelangelo's, wasn't painted though.

    The broken limbs I'm pretty sure are accidental. :-)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The preconception that the Victorians had issues with the male nude is largely a reflection of contemporary prejudice against the Victorians.

    Paul, did you read the links I provided? Or are you saying VictorianWeb.org is prejudiced against the Victorians?

    Despite its mythological anchoring, Burne-Jones' depiction of a nude male was considered indecent, and resulted in the artist's resignation from the Society.

    That article talks about a really complex idea of what was an acceptable depiction of a male nude and what wasn't. I find the criticism of Burne-Jones's Demophoön for not being masculine enough, at the same time as 'too sexy' really fascinating.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • wendyf,

    A couple of years back I stayed with an e-mail friend in Philadelphia and she took me to the Brandywine art gallery. They have a special permanent collection of Andrew (and some of the other) Wyeths. There were some stunning drawings by James Wyeth of Rudolph
    Nureyev. Naked and erect. After an original frisson I was overtaken by the beauty of the dancer's body and the artistry and total lack of prurient intent by Wyeth.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Emma, I was not referring to the links you provided. However, even in the Victorian Web article there is an apparent assumption that the only motivation for making and viewing nudes is erotic.

    It is a shame that the history of the male nude is described almost exclusively as a story of gay history. That erotic assumption overlooks the male nude's place in art, which is as important - if not more so - than the female nude. It also says more about contemporary viewers - incabable of seeing nudity in anything but erotic terms - than it does about the Victorians. There is a general assumption that Victorians were prudes, which simply is not supported by the variety of art works they produced.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    Will the real Victorians in Victoria adopt the NSW nudity/art laws too?

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Sledmere,

    When it comes to nakedness, as opposed to nudity, the British painter Lucien Freud is hard to beat. His naked bodies - male and female - have nothing of the erotic about them, and often display their genitalia in ways that almost make you wish they wouldn't. Well, of course, it's Freud who's doing the displaying.... But his pictures show you a kind of humanity that can be almost overwhelming. I'd offer a link, but I'm so technologically unsavvy, I'd only screw it up.

    wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    There is a general assumption that Victorians were prudes, which simply is not supported by the variety of art works they produced.

    This chap was a Victorian, right?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    There is a general assumption that Victorians were prudes, which simply is not supported by the variety of art works they produced.

    I used to work (oh wait, I still do, that was embarrassing) in the history section at Bardic Web, and I did a couple of Cliff Notes style articles trying to counter the "Victorians as hypocrits" idea, which largely comes from viewing a whole bunch of different individual opinions and a span of at least sixty years as an undifferentiated mass.

    I think we're getting better at separating nudity from sex, but we're a hell of a long way off.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

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