Joe Sola: Atlanta College of Art Gallery

By Auslander, Philip | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Joe Sola: Atlanta College of Art Gallery


Auslander, Philip, Artforum International


Jacques Lacan once observed, "In the human being, virile display itself appears as feminine." The title of Joe Sola's recent exhibition, "Taking a Bullet," first mounted at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, hints at a similar paradox. Sola evokes memories of Hollywood genre films, suggesting that the person offering up the ultimate sacrifice is most likely to be either a man's male buddy or a femme fatale. The gesture itself--the refusal to get out of harm's way--combines stereo-typically masculine action with stereotypically feminine passivity, and this dialectic is at the heart of Sola's project.

The centerpiece of the show, the performance/installation Male Fashion Models Make Conceptual Art, 2006, takes a swipe at the archetypal dyad of the dynamic masculine artist and his inert feminine model. As the title suggests, Sola hired five male models to make art at the exhibition's opening. The only instructions Sola gave his performers were to use all of the materials available and to work for a prescribed period. The content of the work-within-the-work was devised entirely by the models themselves, who thus became artists--of a sort. The result approximated a large, garish Rauschenberg Combine, incorporating a diverse array of elements laid out on a horizontal platform. Any assumption that models necessarily lack critical self-awareness was debunked by an assemblage that included articles of clothing, texts demanding that viewers interrogate their own desire to look, and an Oldenburgian burger-and-fries sculpture. Whatever the work's other achievements or shortcomings, its spectacle of a group of beautiful men hard at work was clearly appreciated by those attending the opening. Even when assuming the active role of artist, the models thus remained eroticized objects of the viewers' gaze.

In interacting with these and other icons of hypermasculinity, Sola always marks his own masculinity as different from theirs. In a monitor-based video Riding with Adult Video Performers, 2002, the artist rides a roller coaster with a group of male porn stars, but it is obvious even in this context that he is a breed apart. …

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