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GROUP AGGRESSION : Reflexive Masculinity in the Male Painter By Ben Sims A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of the Arts Under the sponsorship of Kim Anderson. Sarasota, Florida December 2011
ii TABLE OF CONTENTS Image l ist iii Abstract iv Introduction: The Problem and its Context 1 Ch apter 1 7 Chapter 2 13 Works Cited 26 Images. 29
iii IMAGE LIST. 1. Ben Sims Josh. oil on canvas, 86 x 45 inches. 2. Ben Sims The Space. oil on canvas, 87 x 45 inches. 3. Ben Sims. Rites. oil on canvas, 74 x 48, 60 x 48, 33 x 48 inches. 4. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Raphael and La Fornarina. oil on canvas, 26 x 22 inches. Fog Art Museum, Harvard. 5. Rembrandt van Rijn. Self Portrait. oil on canvas, 15 x 12cm. Museum of Fine Arts Boston. 6. Remb randt van Rijn. Self Portrait in a Cap: Laughing. oil on canvas, 5.5 x 4.8cm Private Collection. 7. Artemisia Gentileschi. La Pittura (Self Portrait). oil on canvas, 97.8 x 74.9cm Windsor Castle, England. 8. Andy Warhol. Double Elvis. silscreen ink on canvas, 6'11 x 53 inches. MOMA, New York. 9. Andy Warhol. James Cagney. silkscreen print, 30 x 40 inches. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis. 10. Ben Sims. The Body Politic. oil on canvas, 29 x 18 inches (3). 11. Ben Sims. Silvio oil on canvas, 62 x 105 inches. 12. John Currin. Rotterdam. oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches. Private Collection. 13. John Currin. Tolbrook. oil on canvas 28 x 63 inches. Private Collection. 14. Ben Sims. Primitive oil on canvas, 8x x 10 inches (6) 15. Enrico David. Bulbous Marauder. gouache on paper, 2 2 x 45 cm. Image Coutesy of the Artist. 16. Enrico David. Bulbous Marauder 2. gouache on paper, 32 x 49 cm. Image courtesy of the Artist. 17. Ben Sims. Group/Agression #1. acrylic on plywood, 38 x 9 inches (3). 18. Paul McCarthy Contemporary Cure All. 1974 performance. Images Courtesy of the Artist. 19. Ben Sims. Group/Agression #4 o il on canvas 59 x 14 inches (3)
iv GROUP AGGRESSION Ben Sims New College of Florida 2011 ABSTRACT This Thesis, Group Aggression, is an investigation into the tension within the male painter between his socialized gender identity and the feminist critique of painting. The studio work that accompanies this paper is a visual exploration of the performance of masculinity, mediated predominant ly through the painted male figure. It is accompanied by a brief survey of contemporary male artists working with the figure and how my work engages with the discourses within them. The paper establishes the formation of patri archal domination over women t hrough the lens of the fraternal social contract. This pattern of gendered domintion is then traced from Judith Butler s theories on the performativity of gender into the world of art, and especially painting. Using feminist theories surrounding the male g aze and the critique of the subject/object positions in representation, tensions are shown to manifest in the male painter. Ultimately, I argue that the tension between the feminist polemic of the twenty first century and a long tradition of normative masc ulinity should be the primary concern of any male painter. ___________________________ Prof. Kim Anderson (sponsor) Humanities
1 Introduction: The Problem and I ts Context there is no doubt that I'm going to take a great many unconscious, but present, patriarchal complicities to the grave because it so deeply ensconced in how I look at the world So you have to get up every morning and struggle against it" Cornel West 1 Every day we participte in gender, from our interactions with family to our interactions within wider society. We engage with the gender constructons of the past while constantly performing them anew in what Judith Buter calls the "originating activity incessantly ta k ing place." 2 Although gender is expressed different by every subject, it coalesce s in the mass to create normatve patterns and correponding transgressions Masculinity, in its many forms, has been the gender identity most asscoiat ed with domination over others This pattern of 1 West, Cornel. Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life Boston: South End Press, 1999. Print. 2 Butler, Judith. "Vari ations on Sex and Gender: Beauvoir, Wittig, Foucault." The Judith Butler Reader. ed. Salih, Sara. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 21 39. 26
2 domination inherent in normative masculinity is usually captured by the co ncept of the patriarchy. The first wide spread critique of the patriarchy is feminism Feminism has peered into every corner of society and culture and found the presence of patriarchal domination. The world of art is no exception and in particular painting Despite this upon the advent of feminism, the ways in which men w ere socialized into mascul inity the structures of which ar e intimately tied to patriarchy resisted the changes feminism required. Thus, the primary tension in the male painter is between thousands of years of socialized masculinity and the self evident truths of the feminist cr itique. In this paper I will use Judith Butler's gender theories, Carole Pateman's construction of the fraternal social contract, and various critiques around the male gaze as lenses through which to view the operation of patriarchy within the medium of pa inting. Using this theoretical base as launching point, chapter 2 will explore contemporary painters who have engaged the tension within the male. My studio practise engages with these contemporary artists too using the male figure to explore the inner ma chinery of masculinity in similar ways. Just as Cornell West describes above, whether men participate in patriarchy consciously or not, it is socialized into them from the moment they are born. What most heteronorm a tive masculinities have in common is the ir engagement, tacit or otherwise, in the oppression of all other gender identities. Although this certainly includes queer and transgender identities, the main thrust of the oppression has been the rejection and subseq uent material
3 denigration of women an d the femi nine. This denigration takes place at every level of existence but is most acutely felt at a m aterial level typified by the glass ceiling in most western economies And despite m uch advancement in gender equality during the twentieth century, le gis lative and social, on the whole the glass ceiling has proved stronger than the academic hammer. Although material manifestation s of gender inequality are felt the stron gest, Art, the sublimation of society's id gives gender inequality and the subsequen t feminist critique its strongest visual language. The theoretical definition of sublimation comes out of Freud and his book An Outline of Psycho Analysis 3 but has subsequently been appied to phenomena of art in our culture. Terry Eagleton sum marizes the p osition sublimation in critical theory; One way in which we cope with desires we cannot fulfill is by sublim a ting them, by which Freud means direc t ing them towards a more socially valued end it is by virtue of such sublimation that civiliztion itself c omes about: by switching and harn essing our instincts to these higher goals cultural history itself is created. 4 Because misogyny is so prevalent in the history of western society, it has been sublimated into every level of art history right up until the present This has spurned feminist art history projects such as recanonization and critique of th e 3 Freud, Sigmund. An Outline of Psycho Analysis. New York: Norton, 1949. 62 4 Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983. 132
4 male gaze 5 Because of painting's prominent place in art history, it received much of this critique. As Carlo Bertelli su ccinctly encapsulates "The feminist polemic and, in its wake, the creation of gender history, have designated art history as primarily masculine, overweening, and autocratic, with a tendency toward the abuse of power." 6 One need only look at depictions of women in the nineteenth century to witness the manifestations of this. Ingres' Raphael and La Fornarina (fig 4 ) is a glaring example of exclusion of women from the possibility of subjecthood, the vagaries of which are discussed below. Much like Cornel West, male painters must be, by way o f their placement as producers of culture, hyperaware of their role in the patriarchy. This awareness stems from absorption of the feminist critique of gender politics in painting that began in earnest in the 1970s. Thus, a split in the male painters psych e is created. Suddenly, what felt innate and interior (natural) as a young contemporary man is given an intellectual framing that recasts it as imposed and exterior. It is this feeling of exterior force, with its ever gaining strength, that creates in men a resistance to change. The socialization of the male within the homosocial space, at its strongest during secondary education and the college years, has not yet incorporated the feminist critique A t its base, masculinity strongly resembles its previous iterations throughout history. As a man ages through his twenties and thirties, he must somehow integrate both the feminist critique, often corporeally represented 5 Linda Nochlins recanonization project and Mulvey et al on the male gaze will be explored in chapter 2. 6 Bertelli, Carlo. "Masculine Art: Universality and the boundaries of Gender in Art." in Material Man: Masculinity Sexuality Style. New York: Harry J Abrams, 2000. 122 130. 122
5 by his socially liberated girlfriend or wife, and the patriarchal structures of domination he has been socialized to accept as "natural" and assumed. It is the tensions between these poles that, in part, maintains the patriarchal structures of domination This lack of integration within the psyche of the male is given a further layer i n the male painter. Art has a priviledged place in society as a barometer of the zeitgeist but also as a producer of ideas and culture. The male painter must work within the se priviledged modes of representation created partly by patriarchy whilst acknowledging the c ritique of the very same modes One of most contentious modes of representation in painting is the use of the figure. In a period slightly before feminism, modernism in painting abandoned the figure "in its long search for the perfect self referential pain ting ." 7 For a period spanning twenty years, the figure was considered a dead mode of representation. It has since come back, but not as it once was. Instead of the figure being prioitzed in art academies, the use of the figure "now involves a conscious cho ice." 8 If the male painter wants to use a female figure to do so means engaging with the polyvalent feminist critiques that are explored early in chapter 2. Partly because of this, I have chosen to work primarily through the male figure. The male figure has enjoyed wildly varying popularity throughout the history of art. To na me just a few important moments: T he Greeks and Romans 7 Kelly, Mary. "Re Viewing Modernist Criticism." 1981. In Art in Theory: 1900 2000. ed. Charles Harrison. Oxford: Blackwell Publing, 2003. 1059 1063, 1061. 8 Lucie Smith, Micha el. The Male Nude: A Modern Persepctive. New York: Rizzoli, 1985. 6
6 saw the figure as th e repository of ultimate beauty, It was abandoned in the Venetian Renaissanc e in favor of the female figure it was relivened by Jacques Louis David as a way of portraying political heroism, and it was met with critical disdain in the paintings of Thomas Eakins. Gender has informed every one of these moments and informs the figure today, which is in a period of revival, as can be seen in chapter 2. The male figure was abandoned during the twentieth century ascension of modernis m because "men have traditionally been associated with the disembodied or transcendent features of human existence and women with the bod ily." 9 My studio practise uses the male figure as a way of placing masculine gender identity back into his body. The (re)embodiment repres ents responsibility as body is the vehicle for deed s I use the silhouetted figure in order to operate in a more univ er s al and to remove some of the problematic modes of representation. This removal is strongly rooted in the need to remove the subject (men) from their context (patriarchy ) This taxono mic division is always undertaken with the acknowledgement that the ve ry medium (canvas, paint, museum) that is being used is a space that is itself gendered by critiques based around the gaze and a homosocial canon. The tension between socialized masculinity and an intellectual accepta nce of feminism is the major problem f or the male painter. Further, before he can move on to creatively explore the endless myriad of tensions that exist in other areas of society, the male painter must explore the inner mechanics of masculinity that are implicit in his gende r and his craft. T his has become the 9 Butler, 27.
7 impetus for my paintings. Chapter 1 The Patriarchy and its Artistic Components Although patriarchy exists in an institutional sense, ingrained into every level of human life, it interacts with gender at an individual le vel. Gender, and in masculinity 's case the patriarchy it supports, does not exist in a concrete way before the subject interacts with it. In Butler's words, "there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender: that identity is performatively constituted by t he very expressions that are said to be its results." 10 It is this perfo r mance Butler describes that forms the entry point of my studio work Every figure within my paintings could be said to be performing gender, whilst the creation of them is my own perso nal gendered perfo r mance. In Josh (fig ) and The Space (fig ), the perfomance of gender is given a sliding scale. The five figures in Josh all dressed in a jailhouse orange shirt and black trousers, float on a blue background. They range in emotional pe rformance from lovingly confident to angry and out of control, each perfoming an aspect of twentieth century heteronormative masculinity. They have conspicuously been removed from The Space, a wood panelled room, the homosocial space, which bears their sil houettes, also in blue. In this way, subjects removed from their context are continuously (re)inventing their gender. This "perfomativity is not a singular act but a repetition and a ritual ." 11 This ritual is the single unit of pa triarchy, the mass collecti on of which 10 ibid, 25 11 Butler, Judith. "Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions" ibid, 90 119. 94
8 form its structures Yet, p atriarchy is not solid and simply maintained by masculine subjects, but rather the individual subject is the result of his repetitive perfomances of gender. These performances are deeply connected to those that have g one before, "a cultural reality laden with sanctions, taboos, and prescriptions," 12 but continually make them anew. I n this way that patriarchy changes its modes of representation even if its basic assumptions (e.g. natural male dominance) remain. Patriarc hal structures manifest themselves at every level of society in every period of history. If a polycentric view is taken, its structures manifest themselves at almost all levels of our culture, both material and intellectual. However, for the benefit of ana lysis, Rachel Adams and David Savran sociologists who study patriarchy, have divided patriarchal structures into four main categories: economic relations, patterns of social organization, forms of political authority, and ideology. 13 Thus, any discussion o f masculinity must take into consideration these specific structures and how they interact. However, if we take the word power in a broad sense to mean any instance where we interact with hierarchy it cuts across all four of the categories. This is the le ns through which political sociologist Carole Pateman views masculinity in her discussion of the fraternal contract. In the beginning of modern period (after the seventeenth century) what Pateman calls the paternal order was overthrown by the fraternal contract, in 12 Butler, "Variations" 27 13 Various, The Masculinties Studies Reader." Ed. Rachel Adams & David Savran. New York: Blackwell Publishing, 2002. P 77.
9 which power was newly located much more in the private realm rather than with the king. Quoting Norman Brown author of Love's Body she describes the process in almost biblical terms: "The sons form a conspiracy to overthrow the despot, and i n the end substitute a social contract with equal rights for allLiberty means equality among the brothers (sons)Locke suggests that the fraternity is formed not by birth but by election, by contractRousseau would say it is based on will" 14 In this transi tion, the sons were given full command over the private (familial) sphere. For Pateman, this is a result of the Genesis story wherein, "the genesis of political power lies in Adam's conjugal rights." 15 Thus, the possibility of political rights for women was swept away by the assumption that sexual and political domination were insepa rable. For Pateman, the political contracts that came to form the modern western nati on state, The U.S. Constitution for example, established patriarchal structures within every level of public (civic) and private (familial) life, whilst using the existing structures as a starting point. Pateman's argument is constructed to convey the constant interaction between political structures and cultural realities, high and low in a reci procating relationship. It is thus that decisions made in capitals by old white men can profoundly change how a young boy is socialized into masculinity at his elementary school. If a state mandate requires an omission 14 Brown, Norman. O. Love's Body. Berkeley: University of Calafornia Press, 1990. P 67 15 Pateman, Carol. "The Fraternal Social Contract." In Masclinity Studies Reader. New York: Blackw ell, 2002. 119 135. 122.
10 of LGBT awareness from their sex educ ation curriculum, a gay male could find it more difficult to assimilate his sexuality into the construction of his gender identity. Furthermore, a n aggregate of sanctioned fraternal activities not only provides the education for those very same men but an acquiescence to the structures produced within them makes them more electable. This is a way liberal western society produces culture, a culture predominantly based on fraternal power This is how patriarchy maintains its power in a political sense but t hat power originates in mens historical domination of the home, wherein it is the family that helps to construct gender. As a result boys first encounter masculinity in a home traditionally rul ed over by a father. At the very beginning of my studio practic e, the reproduction of this kind of patriarchy as located in the family unit was extremely important. Much o f my own work is concerned with this reproduction of masculinity and how it participates in power relations from its very inception. Rites (fig 3 ) a triptych painted on progressively smaller blue canvases portrays an old man in a suit, a boy, and a fragment of a woman. The colors and spatial arrangement of the images attempts to chart a moment when a conscious decision becomes part of ma sculine cons truction. At a certain point, young boys are made to choose between the two presented genders. In as much as infant s are genderless, they contain both masculine and feminine elements. Thus, when adulthood (puberty) gets closer and closer, the boy is put un der social pressure to reject the feminine, represented in the triptych by the third (smallest) canvas, and assimilat e socially
11 prepared masculinity. Thus, the feminine is pushed to the edge of the third canvas and although the boy is physically closer to the feminine, he is intrinsically tied to the old man (socially entrenched hegemonic masculinity) who dominates both the first canvas and the entire triptych. The left hand of the boy, which may, literally or metaphorically, be holding the hand of the femi nine, is severed as he appears to unhappily c onsume a fragment of the suit from the impending masculinity and its patriarchal implications. Beyond its reproduction in the family unit, patriarchy has informed every level of western society, and none so accu tely as art. Art from the Renaissance onward has always been a highly politicized fraternal space. Patronage and state commissions, dominated by th e men whose power they promoted as instruments of cultural regulation are well documented by books such as M ichael Baxandall's Painting and Experience. Because the artist was elevated to a position of genius and political power, in order for the fraternal contract to be maintained, women had to be excluded. Thus, "social, educational, and legal barriers prevente d them from becoming Great Master." 16 Male painters hel d tight to the exclusion of wome n and many male art historians still do. Almost any painti ng from the modern period is open up to a feminist critique, but perhaps none more than the paintings of Jean Au guste Dominque Ingres. Ingres' Raphael and La Fornarina (fig 4 ) seems to capture the phenomenon that pervades western painting inviting the feminist polemic. The painter has 16 King, Catherine. "Made in Her Image" Woman, Prtraiture, and Gender in the 16 th and 17 th Centuries." In Gender and Art. Ed. Gill Perry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 33 60. 33
12 depicted one of his heroes Raphael, with a model and lover on his lap. Yet, despi te the object of his desire being close to him, Raphael is staring at the portrait he has made of her. Whether consciously or not, Ingres has captured the iniquitous gender problem in painting. 17 The female body is not given subjectivity but rather acts a v essel for the machinations of the artist's inner psyche, his personal sublimation as it were. During this process the female c an only hope to be an object within th e picture pla n e and can have no agency. Thus, just as in the socio cultural context of art history, men take ownership of women. In the material s ense through social restriction and in the art historical sense through representation that becomes synonymous with ownership and the acquisition of subjective agency from the Other, in this case the feminine. Although this is result of the material base of society, in Ingres' case post revolutionary French society, which actively denigrated the feminine, it is the critique of the cultural product we are concerned with. This critique is a direct result of the massive feminist project that began in the 1970s. Academic structures and a superficial political correctness create in men a tension within their gender identity. As a male painter this is particularly complicated and many approaches have been ta ken in order to deal with it, some of which are explored in chapter 2. 17 Bertelli, 125.
13 Chapter 2: The Feminist Polemic and Contemporary Masculinity. That gender is socially constructed is, although still controversial in some academic disciplines an accepted tenet of modern western thought. We are born with sexuality, loosely defined around the genitals we have the (mis) fortune to be born with. However, over time we are socialized into a gender that claims to encapsulate how those genitals, literally and figuratively, are supposed to be used. One of the implicit tenets of traditional masculinity is its assumption of hegemonic power over women as natural This tenet is not "natural" to men but rather has been developed over centuries of gender socialization. Pateman sug gests that men hold on tight the fraternal so cial contract because it allows them "to gain material and psychological benefit from women's subjection 18 In a modern social context, the psychological gain has largely been eroded and rendered impotent, while the material gains seem to have faired a little better. To generalize, men no longer are the "masters" of their households but operate in a more even power relationship. Conversely, if power is money, men have maintained a material (political) advantage o ver women. Of the 500 occupations recorded by the Bure au of Labor Statistics, men out earn women in over 490 of them and t hose remaining are traditionally female occupations such as nursing or el ementary education 19 By gradually giving up the overt subject ion of women at a psychological level, men can justify their greater material gains as 18 Pateman, 125 19 http://www .bls.gov/cps/earnings.htm#demographics
14 merely an "individual" achievement. So capitalism and the free market become a new form of t he fraternal social contract. However, because art of the twentieth century h as become so tied to liberal academia, artists don't enjoy the same dismissal of feminism that somewhere like the corporate world may. For comparison, the Venice Biennale of 2011 was 55% women artists while not a single company in the fortune 500 has a fem ale CEO. 20 This was, of course, not always case but is now one of the dominant precepts of art making. Before the mid twentieth century, male painters didn't have to concern themselves with gender power relations. Before the feminism of the 1970s, patriarch y was seen as natural, as natural as the genital identification that delineated which side of the power/oppression binary you would join. Throughout the early twentieth century, art historians continued to canonize with an eye exclusively trained on men. A lthough women have always made art with the same level of skill as men, when that art is assessed they are "marginalized or even written out of art history [are] not regarded as belonging to the dominant narrative of stylistic change and artistic progress" 21 So it is that Rembrandt's self portraits of 1630 (fig 5 & 6 ) adorn every art history textbook but Artemisia Gentileschi's nuanced commentary on artistic identity, Self Portrait as La Pittura (fig 7 ), of the same year was largely ignored until very recent ly. In an example from the modern period, yet to be remedied, Amelia Jones posits, "Jackson Pollock's drip painting wasn't intrinsically better than the abstract 20 www.labiennale.org/en/art/index.html 21 King, Catherine. What women can make" in Gender and Art. Ed. Gill Perry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 33 60. 33
15 painting of his female partner Lee Krasner, it was produced as superior by a system." 22 Althou gh the recanonization undertaken by feminist art historians is by no means complete, their critique of male painting is almost all pervasive in the consciousness of the contemporary male painter. Since Laura Mulvey' s seminal essay, "Visual Pleasure and Nar rative Cinema," the way in which we view culture reflected back to us in the images we create has been fundamentally shaken at its base. Using psychoanalysis as a way of critiquing film, Mulvey shows how representations of women serve to form the "patriarc hal unconscious" by depicting women in one of two ways, as castrated male or a bearer of children, the latter of which threatens in itself to castrate the son by raising him thus into the symbolic order. As a result of this constraint, Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as a signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his fantasies and obsessions by imposing them on t he silent image of a woman who is tied to her place as barer, not maker, of meaning. 23 In this way Mulvey framed modern depictions of women as raw material for the male gaze to shape in order to palliate male castration anxiety. Since Mulvey, feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Luce Irigaray have used an appropriation of the gaze as a tool for e mpowering women. Perhaps the greatest 22 Jones, Amelia. "Representation" in The Feminism an d Visual Culture Reader ed. Amelia Jones New York: Routledge, 2003 33 38. 34 23 Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." In The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 44 53.
16 lasting effect of the discourse that Mulvey began is modern scholarship 's ability to ge nder almos t all cultural output. Although it is the depiction of the h uman body that began the trend many critical disciplines hav e taken up the same theoretical framework. As an extreme example, in her survey of Ecofeminist philosophy, Karen Warren lists one of its ten main tenets as the "symbolic order" of representation, which equates nature with woman in order to "justify the exp loitation of the (female) earth." 24 Nonetheless, it is Mulvey's effect on the contemporary male art maker that creates the tension for he must look upon the "masters" from which he gets his influence in a whole new light. A mass ive part of the feminist pro ject in art history over the latter half of the twentieth century concerned returning agency to the female. Art history rethought the canon, spurned on by Linda Nochlin's question, "Why Are There N o Great Women Artists, 25 part of which chronicled the ritu al exclusion of women from artistic institutions. Contemporary women artists such as Carol Scheeman, Cindy Sherman, and Lucy Lippard began to insert themselves into the canon by cre ating feminst art programs at CalA rts and producing interest by museums and galleries. In the same vein, the Guerilla Girls released statistics that updated Nochlin' s analysis and protested homosocial exhibitions Although the figure had been eradicated by Abstract Expressionism and the avante garde of the early twentieth century the feminist critique centered on the assumption that the artistic act was inherently masculine. Thus, Pollock's mark has been 24 Warren, Karen. Ecofeminist Philosophy. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. 28 25 Nochlin, Linda. "Why are There no Great Women Artists." in Feminism and Visual Culture Reader (New York: Routledge, 2003) 225 229
17 interpreted as both seminal and scatological, both deriving from the masculine desire to impose objectivity on the exterior in order to achieve subjectivity. Luce Irigaray perhaps the most important inheritor of Laura Mulvey's ideas, goes as far as to say that "any theory of the subject has always been appropriated by the 'masculine,'" 26 and claims that any attempt by women to a chieve that subjectivity is inevitably submitting to the patriarchal ground rules. This seems analogous to Carol Pateman's discussion of the construction of the modern individual' as inherently male. The flip side of this, and what has launched this inqui ry, is given a working knowledge of this critique, where does this leave the male image mak er? As Irigaray later points out by the process with which the masculine assumes "subject," he is standing on fickle ground. Unfortunately for the subject, "Th e ob ject' is not as massive, as resistant, as one might wish to bel ieve...and her possession by a subject,' a subject's desire to possess her, is yet another vertiginous failure." 27 Mulvey theorized around the direct representation of women but Irigaray is gen dering an entire mode of representation. She thus applies the gendered gaze to the creation of any kind of image, leaving the male image maker without a leg to stand on. So, without the comforting blanket of the male gaze, the question arises what remains for the male artist to produce if his very subjectness is grounded in a failure? Turning the gaze upon himself or his gender seems the soundest strategy and has informed every level of my studio practice. T here are, however, many ways to 26 Irigaray, Luce. "Any theory of the 'Subject' has always been appropra ited by the masculine." (1994) Feminism and Visual Culture, 120. 27 Irigaray, 121.
18 ap proach gender i n a rt and as many facet again within each one. Contemporary art ist s such as John Currin and Will Cotton have used a self conscious irony to expose out familiarity with gendered modes of representation, others such as Paul McCarthy bypass the mediation of t he problem and illu strate it in all its glory, and there are many, such as Enrico David, between the two groups. In the mid twentieth century, Pop Art appropriated images from popular culture and mirrored them back to the culture at large. Just before a fu ll realization of feminism, this period was a pinnacle of modern masculinity. Consequently, images of men were essential to Pop Art. Warhol, as a homosexual, transgressed traditional masculinity and thus used the medium of screen printing to explore the ge nder identity he was transgressing. This can be seen in the early 1960s works Double Elvis (fig 8 ) and James Cagney (fig 9 ) In a way these two pieces represent a tension between two strands in the traditional masculinity of the 1960s. Cagney is the 1950s man's man, full of violence and aggression yet in a suit and completely w ithout pretense. Conversely, Elvis is the feminized male, dressed up and performing a part; a simulation of gender rather than an embodiment of it. Warhol's appropriation of iconic fi gures has greatly influenced my studio practice and offered a route by which certain types of masculinities can be studied. My own work, The Body Politic (fig 10 ) a triptych derived from historical photographs, explores the inability of aggressive masculi nities to impose themselves upon society. The three paintings predict the death of the aggressive
19 masculine subject by appropriating a moment in modern history when a society angrily brought down one of its most hyperbolic masculinities, Benito Mussolini. After the body masculine is subject ed to the collective aggression in Mussolini's case beaten with sticks until the flesh swelled off of his bones it is examined by that same society, not as an example of their aggression but as a symbol of their rejec tion of it. The body is viewed by the masses, the state, and the feminine, all of which, in an inversion of the gaze, define themselves through their viewing (subjection) and rejection of the body masculine. Overlooking these three paintings is the overly large Silvio (fig 11 ). This canvas shows the cropped head of the current Italian leader. Not only does Silvio Berlusconi trace his political lineage back to Mussolini, but he embodies the same kind of autocratic and aggressive attitude to leadership. It c ould be said that Silvio looming over Mussolini's autopsy with a wry smile and an expensive suit, is a portrait of the patriarchy or at least its most visible agent. Patriarchy reproduces itself by reaffirming the actions of the past, through direct actio n or representations. Although referring specifically to black masculinity, bell hooks decries the way in which "existing representationsserve to reinforce and sustain the existing structures of domination," 28 which applies to all types of masculinity. Ber lusconi's ascension to power is Italian society's reinforcement of the structures, but stands in for this process in all western cultures. Silvio employs irony in the sense that Berlusconi appears untouchable, despite inhabiting the same gallery wall as hi s eviscerated predecessor. In the art of the 28 hooks, bell. "Doing it for Daddy" in Constructing Masculinity. New York: Routelidge, 2000. 99 106.
20 late twentieth and early twenty first century, irony is one of the major tools used by male painters to deal with the fact of the gaze. In contrast to history painting or portraiture, t he postmodern a pproach, a ssumed by John Currin, is to reappropriate the female figure through an ironic lens, incorporating an acute awareness of the male gaze. Currin is fully aware of the problems of subjectivity and masks his figures in a kind of mannerist imaginary that defies their 'realness' and thus bypasses their claim to subjectivity. Some would argue that the gaze cannot be escaped, even in its explicit acknowledgement, but I think there a re more important things at play in Curri n's work. By choosing pornographic images s uch as Rotterdam (fig 12 ) and Tolbrook (fig 13 ) distorting the bodies, and using old master techniques, such as underpainting and dome stic motifs, Currin is undermining subjectivity. By engaging in an ironic objectification he deflects some of his satiric al gaze back on to the masculine subject The ugliness in the distorted bodies and expl oitative posing and composition is the ugliness of the sublimation of the subject into the object, it is an acknowledgement and an exploration. Much feminist criti cism, aside from the work of Irigaray, focuse s on the outward result of the p atriarchal problem while taking little account of masculinity's inner mechanics. Th is is where my work derives it source. John Currin suffers the same fate as David Salle in the sense t hat no amount of irony can save then from the acc usation of misogyny. As a coping mechanism my studio inquiry focuses entirely on the masculine object as it exists in the male
21 body, which in turn must try and exist in the pictorial space as both object (m asculinity) and subject (painter). My series Primitive (fig 14 ) is an attempt to explore this tension. In seven reversed canvases, the masculine subject is made to perform a task. Across the inside of the postcard shaped blank canvases, he boxes from left to right. He is hitting nothing, suggesting impotency and an inability to complete his masculine task, and as such stands in for the male artist who both feels the male gaze as innate and yet is unable to put it into action. Further, he is rendered naked t o show that there is a type of gaze that is now upon him and his actions. The construction of the canvases, with two penny nails holding the fabric onto the outside edge of the frame, is a similar engagement wi th the subject/object dichotomy The male pain ter must paint, but the space in which he does is deconstructed all around him and shows its inner (and outer) mechanics. There are a growing number of contemporary artists who have undertaken the same pursuit. The Italian artist Enric o David uses traditio nally non a rt materials to achieve his end, combining "modernism's clean 'masculine' line with "feminine craft techniques." 29 In his Bulbous Marauder (fig 15 & 16 ) series, winner of the Turner Prize, the masculine is put on full display with all the siniste r violence that undergirds masculine possession. Clowns with clubs, two dimensional figures grabbing their crotch es and large broad shouldered imposing figures are all executed in traditional feminine craft materials in order to show their impossibility, their inability to assert themselves in the modern 29 Hartzwarth, Hans Werner. "Enrico David." in Art Now Vol 3. Londo n: Taschen, 2008. 112 116. 112
22 world. David's figures have individual traits that produce empathy or disgust in the viewer, drawing them into the realization that the figure is fundamentally flawed. Conversely, the silhouettes in piece s such as my Group/Aggression #1 (fig 17 ) are designed to work in relation to each other rather than as individual figures that chase empathy in the viewer Within their contingency upon one another, the fraternal socializations of masculin e trope are pare d down to an essential activity and placed in a three part syntax. T wo of the images, a gang killing and a boxing match, explore aggression, while the third seems similar but out of place. However, through association of the agreed upon nature of the picto rial construction, the third element is cut through with the overt violence of the other two. So it is that in Group/Aggression #1 the masonic ceremony, with its banal suggestion of violence in the rope and staff, is invigorate d with the pernicious aggres sion that accompanies a gang killing or boxing spectacle. Perhaps the greatest problem with masculinity is its in ability to integrate an objective knowledge of how it participates in this violence. T he work that accompanies this thesis is, in part, an atte mpt to integrate a knowledge of this into the process of image making. Being conscious of art's complicity in patriarchy will not rid the construction of images of Carlo Bertelli's formulation but rather allow the images to ask questions within the constru ction. This can be done via the John Currin route, an extreme ironical distance that utilizes the gross tropes of patriarchy to stun the viewer into awareness of them,
23 or images can explore the causal relationships behind those tropes. This thesis humbly a ttempts the latter. The gaze is a cultural product of thousands of years of fraternal entitlement and oppression, but what does that fraternity look like today? The ironic distancing produced by hy perbolic use of female objectification only critiques the s ewage rather than the plumbing and production that brought it to the sea. Since the 1960s, Paul McCarthy has been delving deep into the uglier side of masculinity as it relates to art, violence, race, and politics. His performance pieces of the 1970s confr ont the audience with a hyperbolic action. This is not the ironic distance of John Currin or Will Cotton, but rather an attempt to articulate the "brutality and dehumanization that underlie the social equilibrium." 30 McCarthy's Contemporary Cure All (fig 19 ) is a shocking exploration of gender. The protagonist, presumably McCarthy himself, wears the mask of an old white man while female genitals are attached to him and Barbie dolls are inserted into his orifices by other performers. McCarthy's commentary her e is on the inability of masculinity to simply acquiesce to feminization. Amelia Jones calls McCarthy's process "the desublimation of masculinity," 31 which captures the reversal that McCarthy achieves. If sublimation is our instinctual aims being formed int o socially acceptable practice, McCarthy is rediscovering those instincts, formed from the mechanics of patriarchy, and allowing them to display their ugliness. 30 Cameron, Dan. "The Mirror Stage" in Paul MacCarthy. New York: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2000 57 125. 58 31 Jones, Amelia "Paul McCarthy's Inside Out Body" ibid 125 133. 127
24 This has influence d the way I have ch osen images, especially for the silhouettes. Although I en deavor to show how both the banal and extreme elements of masculinity contain the same types of aggression, pieces such as Group/Aggression #4 (fig 19 ) choose a more lowbrow subject matter. In this vertically oriented triptych, a single event, the dogfight is analyzed for its causes. The dogs, each with their own canvas, look at the audience rather than at each other. They question why we like to watch aggressive acts from behind a barrier, in this case from the remove of the image. The third canvas charac terizes that same audience in silhouettes not as a low brow audience hiding away in a dark alley, but rather portrays them as middle class suits, as if they are cheering a political speech or polo match. Group Aggression #4 captures two of the most importa nt aspects of gendered perfomance, the audience and the arbitrary line we draw between acceptable and unacceptable masculinities. In terms of painting, similar lines are drawn up that demarcate acceptable and unacceptable forms of representation. These lin es have partly been drawn by the feminist polemic of the 1970's. Whenever male artists attempt to paint the female nude, especially if it is in a traditional pose or composition, the (often justified) outcry of mysogyny is lev ied against them. This can be seen in Mira Shore's indictment of David Salle 32 as well as similar critiques of Currin and Cotton. My choice of the silhouetted male figure in my work is in part an attempt to avoid this critique. I placed heteronormative masculinity back in its presumed body and explored its deeds, 32 Shor, Mira. Wet. Durham: Duke University Press, 199 7.
25 the accumulation of which constitutes patriarchal structures. The tension still exists between the feminist polemic and the masculinity I was raised into, yet this project has heightened my awareness of it. Undoubtedly, just as Cornel West elucidated to begin this paper, I will die with patriarchy deeply ingrained within me. However, with some of the consciousness I have gained from this project, perhaps it will be possible to limit the amount of it I subject others to.
26 WORKS CITED Adams, Rachel & David Savran. The Masculinties Studies Reader." Ed. Rachel Adams & David Savran. New York: Blackwell Publishing, 2002. Print. P 77. Bertelli, Carlo. "Masculine Art: Universality and the boundaries of Gender in Art." in Material Man: Masculinity Sexuality Style. New York: Harry J Abrams, 2000. Print. 122 130. 122. Brown, Norman. O. Love's Body. Berkeley: University of Cal afornia Press, 1990. Print. Butler, Judith. The Judith Butler Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Print Cameron, Dan. "The Mirror Stage" in Paul MacCarthy. New York: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2000. Print 57 125. Gilmour, David. Manhood in the Making. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood ed. Art in Theory: 1900 2000. Oxford: Bl ackwell, 2003. Hartzwarth, Hans Werner. "Enrico David." in Art Now Vol 3. London: Taschen, 2008. hooks, b ell. "Doing it for Daddy" in Constructing Masculinity. New York: Routelidge, 2000. Print. Irigaray, Luce. "Any theory of the 'Subject' has always bee n appropraited by the masculine." Feminism and Visual Culture. New York: Routeledge, 2003. Print. 133 152. Jones, Amelia. "Representation" in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader ed.
27 Amelia Jones New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. 33 38. King, Catherine. "Made in Her Image" Woman, Prtraiture, and Gender in the 16 th and 17 th Centuries." In Gender and Art. Ed. Gill Perry. New Haven: Yale Unive rsity Press, 1999. Print. 33 50. "What women can make in Gender and Art. Ed. Gill Perry. New Haven: Yale Universi ty Press, 1999. Print. 50 63. Lucie Smith Edward. The Male Nude: A Modern View. New York, Rizzoli, 1985. Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." In The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. 44 53. Nochlin, Linda. "Why are There no Great Women Artists." in Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. 225 229 Pateman, Carol. "The Fraternal Social Contract." In Masclinity Studies Reader. New York: Blackwell, 2002. 119 135. Warren, Karen. Ecofeminist Philosophy. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. Rpint. West, Cornel. Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life Boston: South End Press, 1999. Print.
28 Fig 1 (top of page) Josh Oil on canvas 86 x 45 inches Figure 2 (bottom) The Space Oil on canvas 87 x 45 inches
29 Figure 3 Ben Sims. Rites Oil on Canvas, (from top) 74 x 48in, 60 x 48in, 33 x 48 inches.
30 1 Figure 4 Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Raphael and La Fiorina. 1814. Oil on Canvas. Fogg Art Museum. 2 1 Figure 5 Rembrandt van Rijn. Self Portrait. 1630. Oil on Canvas, 15 x 12cm. 2
31 Figure 6 Rembrandt van Rijn. Self Portrait in a cap: Laughing. Print, 5.5 x 4 .8cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 1 Figure 7 Artemisia Gentileschi. La Pittura (self portrait). 1630. Oil on Canvas, 97.8 x 74.9cm. 2
32 F igure 9 Andy Warhol. 1963. James Cagney Silscreen Print, 30 x 40 inches (sheet). Minneapolis Institute of Art. Figure 8 Andy Warhol. Double Elvis. Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 6'11 x 53 inches. MOMA
33 Figure 10 Ben Sims. The Body Politic. Oil on Canvas, 29 x 18inches (3).
34 Figure 11 Ben Sims. Silvio. Oil on Canvas, 60 x 37 inches.
35 Figur e 12 John Currin. Rotterdam. 2006. Oil on Canvas, 28 x 36 inches Figure 13 John Currin. Tolbrook. 2006. Oil on Canvas, 28 x 72 inches.
37 Figure 14 Ben Sims. Boxer/Painter. Oil on Canvas, 8 x 10 inches (6). Figure 15 Enrico David. Bulbous Marauder Gouache on Paper, 22 x 45cm.
38 Figure 16 Enrico David. Bulbous Marauder 2. Gouache on Paper, 22 x 45cm.
39 Figure 17 Ben Sims. Group/Agression #1. Acrylic on Plywood, 9 x 38 inches (3)
40 Figure 18 Paul McCarthy. Contemorary Cure All. Performance, 1979.
41 Figure 19 Ben Sims. Group Aggression #4. Oil on Canvas, 14 x 53 inches (3).