Taking A Run at a Male Cliché

Jane Harris curates a look at the psychosexual tensions of a boy and his mom

Curator Jane Harris makes her case for that most clichéd of stereotypes, the “Mama’s Boy,” at White Columns. The show looks at issues of male identity and psychosexuality in relation to the main girl in a boy’s life. The approach to this theme that holds the show together is quite nearly dumbed down in deference to the weightiness of the subject matter.

Art world veteran Cary S. Liebowitz must have been thrilled by the prospectus for this show. His signature faux awkward style of conceptual signage and flatfooted presentation fit in perfectly here. His grouping of three candy colored “I k My ____Son” signs offer “Loozer”, “Artist(ic)” and “Fashion Victim” as interchangeable adjectives. The question of voice–– and just who would a mother be talking to in this way––starts to resonate and sparks my own internal dialogues, “Well, how does my mother describe me?” and “Which one of the three do I identify with?” And off I go––all via very simple means.

Larry Krone’s major piece in the show is an antique quilt cut into a long spiral, whip stitched by the artist back into shape using brightly colored yarns. I wanted to not like this work––his abject object is not a Martha Stewart blue light special, but the Mike Kelley references and the fact of a man taking on traditional women’s methods of construction so eloquently won me over. The rich metaphor of its making and the continuation of the life of this bed linen as an art object place it alongside works like Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bed.”

Another high profiler is video artist Robert Melee; his “High Life” presents another episode in his ongoing series of interactions with his mother. More Bruce Nauman’s “Clown Torture” than “Mommy Dearest,” Mrs. Melee, naked to the waist in bad drag make-up and a 14th Street wig, at her son’s direction chugs a quart of Miller’s High Life beer and then pees it back into the bottle. Stepping over the visceral feelings this prompts, my head filled up with questions about their wonderfully twisted on and off screen relationship as son/mother, director/performer.

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