Beneath the facade

December 02, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

One of the most striking of Robert Flynt's photographs at the Gomez Gallery shows two male figures, one superimposed on the other. The viewer sees the head and upper part of the fully clothed body of a 19th-century man holding a bowler hat and posing for his portrait. Superimposed on this, from about the middle of the chest down, is the body of a man wearing only a pair of briefs.

It looks like one person, seen both dressed and undressed, as a statement that underneath the clothed person is an unclothed one, sexual, vulnerable, primal. It's a picture that says so many things: That we brought nothing into the world and will take nothing away; that clothes don't make but hide the man; that one can no more see into another's mind than see beneath his clothes. Who knows what the person across the way contemplates -- murder, sex, another cup of coffee?

Flynt photographs men under water, which gives their nudity a removed, less stark appearance, and he uses superimposed images and double exposures to create situations that have multiple possibilities of meaning. These photographs are unquestionably sexual and specifically homosexual, but go beyond that to probe beneath the assumptions and facades that everyone uses to get through life as comfortably as possible.

For instance, when people look at a nude in art -- say, a Greek statue -- they're viewing it solely as art, and there's no sexual interest in their gaze at all, right? Rubbish, says Flynt, with his photo of a Greek statue and two nude living men, in which one man appears to restrain the other from embracing the statue. This not only says that there's a sexual element in art, but also by extension that certain masks are sometimes better worn than jettisoned.

Flynt reiterates this point in another photo of two clothed men grasping one another's hands, while one nude man picks up another nude man who appears to embrace him and kiss him on the chest. Yes, there is a possible sexual implication in every physical contact, but people don't necessarily think about that every time they see football players huddle or two people shake hands.

Some of Flynt's photos are not as good. They can be confusing or appear essentially pointless. But at their best, they can be full of facade-ripping connotations.

It probably seemed logical to show Jose Villarrubia's photographs, also primarily of male nudes, along with Flynt's. But, lusciously colored though they are, Villarrubia's works are far less complex and thought-provoking.

The third artist here is the Spanish painter Ezequiel, whose modest-size works satirize not only his fellow Spaniards but everyone. The two people in "Looks" look pretty silly staring at something (probably someone) unseen as if it were weird beyond belief. It's probably a lot less weird than they are, which illustrates the tendency of each person to think of himself or herself as the norm.

At Gomez Gallery

What: Photographs by Robert Flynt and Jose Villarrubia, paintings by Ezequiel

Where: 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Dec. 28

Call: 410-752-2080

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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