At Cheim & Read, preppy lads remain unfluffed, but the blow jobbed boy is truly erotic
November is auction time—and when all the galleries pull out their big guns. What could be bigger than Warhol?
The artist who blurred the lines between high and low art with his Campbell’s Soup can paintings, who made Byzantine Madonnas out of Marilyn and Jackie O, whose comment on abstract painting was to have his friends pee on canvas for the oxidation stain, has at least three shows up right now in Chelsea. At Cheim & Read, we can see the late male nudes, at Shafrazi the double celebrity portraits, and at Van De Weghe his late consumer silkscreen paintings. This does not even include the rest of the shows up that were influenced by Warhol. It’s amazing how much simulation is going on here. It makes me miss appropriation art. At least that movement was blatant about its source.
By far the most satisfying show is at Cheim & Read. Here we have a series of male nudes from 1982 to 1987. Multiple black and white photographs of naked men, sewn together in repetition, hang in the large gallery. There is one hustler that harkens back to early muscle/ porno photos but for the most part these nudes look like rich kids who stopped in the Factory to be around “Warhol,” and to whom Andy said, in his innocent way, “Why don’t you take off your blue Brooks Brothers pinstriped shirt and your tan khakis and let me snap some pics.” It looks as if these guys were too self-conscious to allow themselves to be “fluffed”; the images fail to blur any boundaries and remain desexualized. The text for the show tries to draw a comparison to classical art, but objectification and idealization of the male nude are not reached here as they were as in Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs.
The jewel of the show is a continuous showing of Warhol’s 1964 legendary film “Blow Job”. This is an unedited, 41-minute, black and white film where a James Dean-type gets a blowjob. The incredible thing about this film is that it is just a close up of this guy’s face, as he receives oral attention. The film is incredibly erotic and sexy without showing us any actual “sex ,” yet achieves all the qualities we love in pornography. The piece melts the boundary between Hollywood films and porno. The silvery image makes this guy so sexy, that one can project on to and objectify the image. Although controversial in 1964, today this piece looks like poetry. It takes sex in the moment of orgasm, and transforms it into a truly conceptual experience. It is also way ahead of it times in conveying the minimalist art meaning “less is more.”
“Male Nude,” 1987, four stitched gelatin prints may well have resulted from an East Side lad being talked out of his pants by the ever-resourceful Andy Warhol; in “Blow Job,” 1964, Warhol as filmmaker reminds us that the sexiness comes not from the cock, but from the orgasm.