I am not sure I love the photographs, but I did love the show. First, as best as I can tell, the Carlton Arms is an old quirky hotel for European backpackers, where each room is small but painted in a different theme, and by the end of your stay you’d know the guy who runs the place by his first name. To see the show, you needed to ask the man at the front desk for the key, which led to some discussion about whether I should just be given the key to the two rooms the work was in or accompanied. Finally, I was led into the first room, given a key and when the guy at the desk closed the door, he told me to “take your time, no hurry.” I found myself alone in room of pictures of young naked men masturbating. I immediately felt a little odd about the encouragement to take my time. The pictures were a little soft and dark, lending a certain romance to the images that was a little bit much for my taste. But from my reading of the press release, Aneta Bartos is a woman who is taking on the male gaze thing (for my money, a topic Laurel Nakadate now rightfully owns). But maybe when it comes to the nakedness, the female gaze is a little more romantic in an Anne Rice kind of way. And I guess a lot of the masturbating is facing away from the camera and the viewer is put at a higher angle, so we get to be in a position of power over the subject matter. But I don’t know as a man I like my pictures of naked people to be sharper and well exposed.
The rooms themselves were great. The guy at the front desk said the pictures were made at the hotel, and the rooms in the pictures matched the décor of the spaces they were being shown in, with one featuring a very sparse single bed not unlike the one in the pictures, so as an installation and show-going experience, I thought it was rad. I felt a little uncomfortable, I got to experience a weird but charming hotel. I’m still not a hundred percent on the pictures, but maybe I am not the audience for this kind of thing. My male gaze does have almost all of art history and the internet so I guess, I cannot complain about how women like to see nakedness, albeit underexposed and a little blurry.
The Carlton Arms Hotel (160 E 25th St. Rooms 1A and 2A, Btw. Lexington & 3rd Aves.)