Dated Symbolism

Cape Times (South Africa), February 26, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Dated Symbolism


Exhibition: PATRIARCH at the Iziko SA National Gallery until March 15. MELVYN MINNAAR reviews.

SOMEHOW one yearns for a different title to this astute little show; the present one sits uneasily. Tribal attitudes concerning maleness can indeed do with a witty kick up the traditional, but their paternalistic figure with its pseudo-religious connotations counts for dated, facile symbolism.

It is surely disclaimed by contemporary boys and men. The irony seems lost.

So it's much more fun just to contemplate these jolly pieces - mostly hauled up from the Iziko collection cellar - and consider how images and portrayals of masculinity shift.

While it is evident that the compilers, Nadja Daehnke and Andrea Lewis, are having a dig at what they offer as "male power", one has the feeling their argument could have been visually stronger, and more complex. Their chosen artworks, fine pieces as they are, argue against maleness by merely subverting it in wimpy, camp images.

One misses a counter argument of over-reaching muscular masculinity. Wendy Schwegmann's bodybuilder seems somewhat deflated and Billy Monk's picture just a wee too eccentric.

Sexuality has been left in the locker room, real male power locked out. Where is the spunk?

As it is, none of the pictures and sculptures would truly be said to represent an old-school view of the imposing, authoritative male.

These males on show are, for the most part, all funky, alternative men.

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