Friday, December 28, 2018

Tom Wesselmann at Nouveau Musée National de Monaco


While this exhibition is relatively Playboy tasteful, Wesselmann has gone Hustler before. Though Wesselmann - as far as I can tell - has never actually depicted coitus. Great American Nude #87 is as explicit as he gets, and is perhaps most off-putting in the thought that that there are 87 more of these. I don't think its defense enough to say Wesselmann merely had "a love for women" as people seem to say. It may have been a love totemizing and pedestalizing the idea of "woman" but not necessarily women, since individuals are scrubbed of their faces like pink erasers. Thankfully they do get to keep their sexual organs. But, even with genitals intact, these women don't ever get laid, there is never a penetrative act*, the women never even pleasuring themselves. The pleasure they do get is the classic centerfold delight of just being an object of desire; women seemingly made orgasmic, titillated, by the eye itself. Maybe this is all obvious. Maybe the women are just happy that they got to keep their pink bits, if not their eyes. If they were allowed eyes, we can guess the look they'd be giving us, because its culturally encoded in us. But the women, despite any desire they exude, remain pure to intrusion, any penetration, even the corruption of their own devices or hands. A little agency on the part of the women might allow the virginal fantasy popped, and the commodity can't come unshrinkwrapped. The women are instead held at that mythic distance that feels a lot like (is) objectification that is desire/want perhaps come to be misunderstood as love. And Wesselmann's few penis paintings look like underwater photos of dull-headed sharks on the hunt. We haven't moved past this essentialism. Sexual dimorphism in humans is actually pretty low comparatively yet we invent this distance, must continually highlight it, perform it, seemingly incant it. Surely they are about heterosexual desire, its glossy magazine version. And are, almost by definition, sexist. Maybe this is all obvious. Maybe we can find some complexity in that. Worldcat shows I'm a couple thousand miles, or Amazon shows I'm 65$, away from the essays on the matter. Which I would like to read an astute defense. Because one of the paintings is a shelf with Mayonnaise and a ripe red tomato, which is a cruel Sarah Lucas sculpture if there ever was one.

See too: Betty Tompkins at Rodolphe JanssenLisa Yuskavage at Contemporary Art Museum St. LouisNicola Tyson at Friedrich Petzel,Nicola Tyson at Nathalie Obadia
*Found a single image of a negative-shape penis about to enter a lipsticked mouth, and another with something that could have been a popsicle or phallus, though no C. raisonné on hand to verify entirely.