Tackling issues surrounding masculinity from a variety of perspectives a new exhibition, featuring both male and female artists, will be on show at Sumarria Lunn Gallery in Mayfair from March to April 2013. It poses the questions: How does a man see himself as a man? How do
women see men? And how do men see other men?
AGI’s primary interest in the exhibition is Mehtab Hussain, who has spent the last three years photographing the Pakistani community in Birmingham. With an estimated population of 100,000 people of Pakistani origin in a city of 1,000,000 Birmingham has the highest proportion of Pakistanis in the UK.
Mahtab Hussain has photographed these communities, exploring the relationship between identity and masculinity within this cultural set. Through his photographs he poses the question, “What does it mean to be a British Pakistani male today?” His images witness these young men’s concept of individuality and masculinity, existing as they do between two conflicting worlds.
New Zealand-born, London-based Alexis Hunter turned the camera on men inan attempt to reverse the ‘male gaze’ — her works are considered an important contribution to 1970’s feminist art in the UK.
Object Series Twin Towers taken in 1975 features a man’s torso naked from the waist up, wearing leather trousers and a biker belt.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center loom ominously in the distance, the ultimate phallic symbols. The anonymous man holds a smoking cigarette, poised where his penis would be. This is at once an homage to and parody of masculinity. The image sums up her work: a combination of intellectual inquiry into desire and subjectivity, but handled with tongue-in-cheek humour.
French artist and writer Claude Cahun (1894-1954) was a pioneering photographer who defied the sexual and social conventions of her time. Her work appears strikingly contemporary for the way it blurs notions of masculinity and femininity, challenging rigid ideas around gender and sexuality.
Cahun used her own image to dismantle the clichés surrounding ideas of identity, adopting masculine or feminine characteristics in accordance with the role she wished to play. She constantly reinvented herself through photography, posing for the lens with a keen sense of performance and role-play, dressed as a woman or a man, with her hair long or very short, or even with a shaved head.
New York-based Hank Willis Thomas works primarily with themes related to history, popular culture and identity – in particular African-American masculinity. In the series, 20 paintings featuring different arrangements of the text “I Am A Man”, present a myriad of representations and contradictions within black male identity.
The context for the work comes from a 1968 photograph of African-American sanitation strikers led by Martin Luther King in Memphis holding placards, each one carrying the statement ‘I Am A Man’.An earnest appeal for fair treatment, safe conditions and a decent wage is turned inside out in Thomas’ paintings, now analysed in regards to concepts of manhood.
Be A Man!
Artists: Claude Cahun, Alexis Hunter, Mahtab Hussain, Ali Kazim,
littlewhitehead, Miguel Rael, Hank Willis Thomas
Location: Sumarria Lunn Gallery, 36 South Molton Lane, Mayfair, London
Exhibition runs: 14th March to 19th April 2013