Joseph Maida does play a lot with assumptions. The portraits of men in Hawaii are all set in landscapes that fit what you might imagine Hawaii to look like, complete with black rocks, ample coast line and palm trees. And maybe because I know Maida and his previous work or maybe because of the amount of skin or occasional provocative stance, I immediately assumed that the pictures were of gay men in Hawaii and was a little surprised when the press release described the men as being male models. In an instant, the work did what I imagine it was set out to do, which is challenge the perceptions of gay male identity. As a heterosexual male, for better or worse, if I was on a game show for money, I would still guess the smaller men who occasionally have pink bangs or no pubic hair as being gay and the larger, barrel-chested men as being straight. But bear culture has worked very hard to promote a male sexuality that is thicker and less performative than, say, the gay party kids of the Limelight in the 90’s. Clearly this is all based on some assumption that gay men are a separate identifiable group as opposed to people who are attracted to people of the same sex. And even if gender and sexual politics are a total bore to you, it is wonderful how the men in Maida’s pictures choose to present themselves and how much their choice of clothes fit right into what you might imagine Hawaiians look like. The men are almost all seen shirtless and often in traditional dress or tattoos. One of the nice things about well-done portraiture is that people are endlessly fascinating to look at.
Through November 9th