Monday, January 15, 2007

Defending Matt Greene

Deitch Projects was recently showing works by Matt Greene in an exhibition entitled Surrender! that I think warrants notice. (It just closed, but you can check out most of the works at the Deitch site.) If you look at the paintings for a few seconds, you're probably not surprised that Roberta Smith is pissed. She says:
"They seem conservative, thin and calculated to appeal to young, straight, male hedge-fund managers with a yen for lap dances and a taste for magazine illustrations from the 1960s."
First of all, all young, straight, males have a "yen" for lap dances. I don't think that should really be held against them. Second, what young hedge fund managers have a "yen" for 1960s magazine illustrations? I mean, I'm sure some do, but is that really a viable cultural stereotype? Those two points aside, these young men are apparently the target audience, according to Ms. Smith.

Smith is most upset that the women depicted in the majority of the paintings appear to be "vamping for the male gaze." Superficially, that may be true. The women bend over and prostrate themselves in various ways for the viewer. But it's over the top and almost comical. In some, the women jump in the air laughing; in others, they hold gigantic swords, caricatured phallic symbols. I don't think that any young male (or young male hedge fund manager, to continue using Smith's words) would feel comfortable purchasing one of these to look at for pornographic purposes, as she seems to suggest, especially given the massive witches in many of them.

With all of that said, they (and we) should feel comfortable purchasing and hanging them for another reason: they're tremendous fun, inhabiting that exciting line between irony and pure pleasure. It's that element of fun that seems to really bother Smith. Everyone's conscious of the concept of the gaze today, and Greene seems to be playing with that in much the same way as Richard Prince in his Nurse paintings (on which the market, at least, has definitely ruled). Matt Greene may or may not end up exploding into popularity - Deitch hasn't made up his mind; he's showing but not representing him at the moment - but these works seem to add some points to the former possibility.

4 comments:

IntrepidLisa said...

Interesting that the commentary is about the audience for the work, as if it were a commercial product rather than art.

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