Exhibition, Barbican Art Gallery, London, 20th February – 17th May 2020
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography
Header photo: Rotimi Fani-Kayode – Untitled, 1985
© Rotimi Fani-Kayode, courtesy of Autograph, London
Across society there are many traditions and expectations; how we look, think and behave are all subject to comment by the press and the opinions of others on social media. Thankfully, views from the past about what should be perceived as ‘masculine’ are being challenged and are changing as a result. Still, there is huge disparity in this between different cultures and backgrounds and the chance to consider this in visual form makes up the subject matter for a new exhibition at The Barbican, opening its doors in February.
Photo: CatherineOpie – Rusty, 2008
© Catherine Opie, coutesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles
and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography features a wealth of big name photographers as well as some newer names in the arena. Having begun to take photos as a child with a gifted Kodak Instamatic, LA based Catherine Opie has risen in stature to exhibit in galleries across the US and internationally, her portraiture and social commentary shots famed around the world and now displayed here. Also included is the work of Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Arriving in Brighton as a child having fled the Nigerian civil war, he went on to study photography in New York before returning to the UK to produce an esteemed body of work, both technically and socially, before his death in 1989. He is quoted as saying, ‘On three counts I am an outsider: in terms of sexuality; in terms of geographical and cultural dislocation; and in the sense of not having become the sort of respectably married professional my parents might have hoped for. Such a position gives me the feeling of having very little to lose’; a statement that underlies the essence of this exhibition as it sets out to encompass masculinity in all its forms and realities.
Photos: Left – Hal Fischer – Street Fashion: Jock from the series
Gay Semiotics, 1977/2016
courtesy of the artist and Project Native Informant London
Top right – Catherine Opie – Bo from ‘Being and Having’, 1991
Collection of Gregory R Miller and Michael Wiener
© Catherine Opie, courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles,
Thomas Dane Gallery, London and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Bottom right – Sunil Gupta – Untitled 22 from the series Christopher Street, 1976
courtesy of the artist and Hales Gallery
© Sunil Gupta all rights reserved, DACS 2019
Details from the press release below:
‘Barbican Art Gallery will stage Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, a major group exhibition that explores the ways in which masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day. The exhibition brings together over 300 works by over 50 pioneering international artists, photographers and filmmakers such as Laurie Anderson, Richard Avedon, Rineke Dijkstra, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Peter Hujar, Isaac Julien, Annette Messager and Catherine Opie, alongside a lesser-known and younger generation of artists including Cassils, Sam Contis, George Dureau, Karen Knorr, Elle Pèrez, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Hank Willis Thomas, Karlheinz Weinberger and Marianne Wex among others.
With ideas around masculinity undergoing a global crisis and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity filling endless column inches, the exhibition will chart the representation of masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradiction and complexity. Touching on themes of patriarchy, power, queer identity, race, sexuality, class, female perceptions of men, heteronormative stereotypes and fatherhood, the works in the exhibition present masculinity as a largely unfixed performative identity shaped by cultural, political and social forces, with photography and film central to the way in which masculinity is shaped and understood.
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is part of Inside Out, the Barbican’s year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.’
Photo: Peter Hujar – David Brintzenhofe Applying Makeup (II), 1982
© 1987 The Peter Hujar Archive LLC
courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography runs from 20th February – 17th May 2020
Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS
Opening times: Sun-Wed 10-6, Thurs-Sat 10-9, Good Friday 10-9, Easter Monday 10-6
Standard tickets Mon-Fri £15, Sat-Sun £17 – please check the website for concession prices and for further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting
All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from The Barbican and are copyrighted as credited
Unconnected to the exhibition but a valuable resource for those who may need it, The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and the cause of 18 deaths every day. Their website advises, ‘Anyone can hit crisis point. We run a free and confidential helpline and webchat – 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems’. If you need to speak to someone or would like to support their cause you can find CALM here.
Words excluding press release by Siobhan
21st January 2020