David Antonio Cruz
March 29 — April 28, 2018
Friday March 30th, 2018
Strange Looks is a group exhibition turning its eye towards the unstable nature of the gaze. The artworks included feature an array of approaches to representing the body aware of being on display. From elusiveness to allure, confrontation, contortion, the artists involved depict the complicated relationships between figures and onlookers. The exhibition’s title is stolen from the opening act of the play Salomé by Oscar Wilde one of the earliest modern references to the odd power of seeing and being seen.
Wilde’s play, premiered in France in 1896, and was initially banned in England, where it challenged Victorian social mores. Its origin story comes from the scant Biblical account in which a princess is offered anything in her stepfather King Herod’s kingdom after performing for him the sultry “Dance of the Seven Veils”. Her chosen reward is the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Wilde took great liberties embellishing on this basic premise, reformulating traditional roles of object and subject, masculinity and femininity and challenging popular morality about sexual desire that still can be seen as challenging to today’s popular standards.
Rather than fitting a fixed role, the bodies depicted in Strange Looks enact volatile positions along the spectrum of how they look. This can relate to the ways in which they are viewed by others, but also how they take on the role of the viewer, confusing positions. The striptease serves as a fitting metaphor for these self-conscious bodies. At times materially and visually seductive, the works perform acts of subtle resistance leaving themselves neither wholly accessible, nor completely available to the viewer. Asserting various degrees of control over their looks, these figures frustrate visibility and position, while intentionally or not heightening our desire as viewers.