Magazine article Artforum International

"Glory Hole"

Magazine article Artforum International

"Glory Hole"

Article excerpt

ANTWERP, BELGIUM

LLS 387 RUIMTE VOOR ACTUELE KUNST

As a critic, I am normally hesitant to use such words as memorable or exceptional, but when I visited the alternative art venue LLS 387 Ruimte voor Actuele Kunst to see the exhibition "Glory Hole," these were exactly the words that came to mind. Before visiting, I was skeptical of the show's premise: The space would supposedly be transformed into a "darkroom"--here the term refers not to a place where film is developed, but a room, like those sometimes found in gay bars or movie theaters, where customers can go to have sex. It seemed like there was a good chance the show would turn out to be nothing more than a tacky gimmick. On the other hand, the inclusion of artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Elmgreen & Dragset, Zoe Leonard, Robert Gober, and even Auguste Rodin suggested a more serious purpose, as did an ambitious program of film screenings, performances, and public talks.

When I visited, I was guided by one of the show's curators--which felt almost necessary, since the white-cube space had been changed into a labyrinth of extremely dark, narrow corridors. One of the first works I encountered, The Bronze Age, 1875-80, a beautiful statue by Rodin representing a naked man, set the show's tone. For anyone used to seeing this sculpture in Antwerp's open-air Middelheim Museum, its presentation in "Glory Hole"--in a dark box with light very narrowly focused on the naked bronze male body--seemed to reveal something previously unseen. Instead of just an incredibly crafted, realistic sculpture, the work embodied a frank acknowledgment of male sexuality. Apparently, this statue is an icon for the gay community.

Two works by Gober made clear that in this context, queer issues could be either explicit or implicit. Nothing could have been more in-your-face than his set of three prints Untitled, 1991, depicting genitals in shades of red, blue, and green. …

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