An unusual show is on now at Austin’s Lora Reynolds Gallery. Chasing Desire features portraits and a fascinating installation by Austin artist Xavier Schipani. I have mixed feelings about this show, but foremost amongst them is my admiration for Schipani’s apparent fearlessness.
The installation, called What Makes a Man, is literally a large bathroom, with sinks, a mirror, urinals, three stalls, and a set of murals (see image above). The walls, both inside and outside the stalls, show paintings of men of various races in erotic poses with each other. The views inside the stalls, in particular, are quite explicit.
I’m not sure what I think about this. I’ve no problem with homosexuality, so I was initially puzzled about my reluctance to write about this show. I’ve come to realize that my reticence is a combination of two things: that bone-deep Puritanism that so many of us WASPs grow up with (and that I assumed I’d shaken ages ago), and, related to that, an unwillingness to deal with the reactions of folks who would see my write-up as a target to rave against homoerotic art.
Less important is the fact that the more explicit pieces really aren’t to my taste. That doesn’t matter so much to me, as I do really appreciate the fact that the pieces make you think. The artist’s concept of using the setting of a bathroom, especially one that looks as real as this one, is genius. Especially in light of the debate over the use of public restrooms in the past couple of years, coupled with the fact that Schipani is a trans artist (and this is Texas).
My favorite pieces in this show, however, were a few of the other wall murals that were less overtly sexy, and more athletic. They reminded me of Greek statues of athletes, or more particularly, of the way Greek artists painted athletes on their pottery, e.g., discus throwers, runners, wrestlers, etc. Schipani paints these figures in solid colors and in poses that look sculptural. It makes the art history geek inside my head happy.
Chasing Desire will be on view at Lora Reynolds Gallery through September 1.