The concept of blurred gender lines isn’t anything new. But it’s been at the front door of our minds over the last few months, after seeing gaggles of girls dressed like boys (Saskia de Brauw in Saint Laurent’s Spring menswear campaign, Tamy Glauser, Jenny Shimizu, and Ashleigh Good on Givenchy’s Fall ’13 men’s runway) and boys dressed as girls (thank you, J.W. Anderson and Meadham Kirchhoff). The Art world seems to be pondering the topic, too. Evidence? Last night’s opening of Ladies & Gents - an exhibition at Salomon Contemporary that aims to cheekily explore our perception of the sexes. Featuring sixteen works, like Kiki Smith’s Daisy Chain (a long metal chain with a woman’s head and feet, made in 1992), Deborah Kass’ Four Barbras, Six Red Barbras, Four Barbras (a 1993 Barbra Streisand-centric silk-screen series), and Judith Hudson’s Bribe (an irreverent 2009 watercolor of a topless, pearl-adorned woman), the show lightheartedly juxtaposes masculinity and femininity, and sometimes fuses both. Take, for instance. E.V. Day’s work Spidey/Striptease (2012). Known for deconstructing fashion items (like a Chanel jacket, an Herve Léger bandage dress, and pink panties) and stringing them up into complicated webs, Day presented a piece that combined a shredded Spider-Man costume, fishnets, and red stiletto heels. “I love Spider-an, because his web looks just like a fishnet stocking.” said Day. “And that brought me to the realization that there’s a feminine idea about him,” she added.
Nir Hod - who showed Genius, a new painting that depicts a jaded, judgmental child wearing what looks like Elizabethan clothes while he sokes a cigarette - insisted that his work is about pure beauty. “That’s beyond gender. If you asked me if this was a boy or a girl, I couldn’t even tell you.”
Photographer Michael Halsband (the same Michael Halsband who shot Andy Warhol and Basquait, and the Rolling Stones) had his black-and-white Klaus Nomi portrait on display. Shot in 1980, the work, which depicts the performer from New York’s Lower East Side, was actually part of Halsband’s final project when he was studying at SVA. “I used to see Klaus around. He stood out but was very refined,” recalls Halsband. “He had this plastic, vinyl contraption that he designed and had made by a Broadway costume maker, and he wore it for the first time in this photo. I have twenty rolls of film of him subtly adjusting his whole posture an attitude so that it looked just right.”
Gallerist James Salomon asserted that the show mustn’t be taken too seriously. “I hope viewers will see the exhibition as southing that’s proactive, fun, and sexy - even if some of the works are anti-sexy,” he said. As we’re sure Klaus would tell us, sometimes unsexed is the sexiest way to be.
Ladies & Gents is on view at Salomon Contemporary through April 27th, 2013.
- Katherine K. Zarella