Monday, July 14, 2014
NAKED JULY: Male Nudes by Rockwell Kent
Though the images are are not explicitely sexual, I was immediately struck by their sensual, erotic qualities. Each man's body is muscular, unblemished, and ideally proportioned, yet also appears soft to the touch. The "swimmer" is not swimming, but leans to firmly grip a paddle. The "bather" is not bathing, but strikes a flirtatious, seated pose. Two of the figures balance with a ship's spar between their legs, bobbing over gently churning waters.
That they are not explicit or aggressive in their sexual provacation strikes me as even more titilating because the men seem secretive and coy.
The last of these wood etchings appeared in the 1995 exhibition Male Desire: Homoerotic Images in 20th-Century American Art. The show was organized by art historian Jonathan Weinberg, who:
"...proposes that the sexualized image of the male body has carried different meanings in different eras and that homosexual content is by no means always conscious. By mixing homosexual and heterosexual artists in the show (as the exhibition 'In a Different Light' did recently in San Francisco), he suggests that esthetic fashion and political beliefs can play as important a role as sexual orientation in creating 'homoerotic' images."
Even though the style of these figures is indeed emblematic of the period, part of me still finds it difficult to believe that Rockwell Kent, in his inspiration and creation of them, felt no sexual attraction to the male form.