Sunday, July 27, 2014

Second Day Noodle (on the seventh day): Nudity in Fine Art

So, I'm not attempting to argue for one side or another in this post. Just thinking about somethings and asking questions.

I recently read a Hyperallergic article about a controversial nude piece up in a downtown Manhattan gallery, Rivington Design House. It got me thinking about nudity in the art world. My initial thought was "Yea! Finally an image of a nude man instead of a nude woman!".

The nude male photograph in the front window of a Manhattan gallery (Image Courtesy of Claire Voon).

Then I started asking some questions.

Is the show so controversial because of the medium, photography? If the images were paintings would there be so much ruckus? If the image were of a female would it be more accepted? Currently, there are plenty of accepted images of female nudes in fine art.

Fransisco de Goya y Lucientes
La maja desnuda

Venus of Urbino


There are also some that are not so accepted.

Leena McCall
Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing

Here's a link to the Slate article about the removal of the piece.

In Wikipedia, under Nude (art), the amount of images of nude women is twice that of nude men, and with a google image search of "historical nude paintings" the women exceedingly outnumber the men. Of course many of these nude images were very controversial in their time as well.

Chuck Close's nude works were featured in the Pace Gallery show, "Nudes 1967 – 2014", earlier this year.

Chuck Close
Laura I

Chuck Close
Untitled Torso Diptych
In 1967 Close's show of nude work was shut down at the University of Massachusetts Art Gallery, Amherst because the nude male images were seen as "obscene". Eventualy, the ACLU got involved and the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided to "extend freedom of speech to visual arts".

What is the difference between nudity in fine art and pornography? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of pornography is
movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement

Pearl Izumi Cycling Advertisement

In a very open and direct way. Yep, that's what this is.  And order to cause sexual excitement. Well, I'd say this one is aiming for that. Many of the advertisements we see fit the definition of pornography. I don't think Bek Andersen's images at the gallery were made with the purpose of getting the viewers arroused, but maybe I'm wrong.

A lot of the controversy over the Andersen images in Manhattan right now is that the gallery is close to a couple of schools. I asked my husband about wether he'd have an issue with our hypothetical children walking by the gallery and seeing a photographic image of a nude man or woman...and he said maybe he would. He said it would depend on our child's developmental stage. and that young children do not yet know the difference between art and pornography. I see what he's saying. 

I guess I still don't know what I think of the whole thing. Anyway, just some thoughts about nudity and what we do with it, and when, where and how it is currently socially acceptable.  

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