'Currents '93: Dress Codes.' (Exhibit at Institute of Contemporary Art)(Reviews)

By Miller, Francine Koslow | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview

'Currents '93: Dress Codes.' (Exhibit at Institute of Contemporary Art)(Reviews)


Miller, Francine Koslow, Artforum International


This year the annual "Currents" exhibition at Boston's ICA examined transvestism, gender-crossing, and gay and racial identities through multimedia works by 24 artists. The images ranged from Nan Goldin's well-known photographs of transsexuals and transvestites, to RuPaul's rock video Supermodel (You Better Work), 1992, to Boston-based Abe Rybeck's cabaret drag performances. "Dress Codes" consisted of visual art, video, film, performance and educational programs (which included makeup seminars for male cross-dressers and an all day "Drag King" workshop for female-to-male cross-dressers led by performance artist Dianne Torr), a cross-dressing reading room, and three Saturday evenings of "Fear and Clothing" theater.

Catherine Opie's and Yasumasa Morimura's portraits and self-portraits stood out in a mostly mediocre selection of artwork. Opie's series of color photographs entitled "Being and Having," 1991--close-up frontal images of "daddy/boy" lesbinas who wear moustaches and the accessories of male street gangs--succeed as engaging parodies of male portraiture. Morimura's Doblonnage: Marcel, 1988, an oversized computer-enhanced color photograph, replaces Duchamp's famed portrait of himself as Rrose Selavy with a portrait of the artist in drag. He substitutes his Japanese features for Duchamp's European ones, and also adds a second pair of hands and a second hat.

Hidden in the basement reading rooms were two handcrafted books by Boston-based Peter Madden. Constructed of brown paper bags, several collages, and rusted metal covers, the books successfully incorporated narrative and art. Fairy Tales, 1992, documents Madden's childhood fascinations with wearing women's clothing, and Pyramid, New York, 1984 (When Queens Collide), 1993, relates through pictures and balck humor Madden's experience as a go-go cross-dresser at the famed New York club.

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