23 July, 2008
Marlene Dumas - LA
I've been commenting recentlt that there isn't really a tradition of the male nude as painted by women. For the most part, a search on "male nude" returns works by male artists, ie gay porn or soft porn.
This is an exhibition by Marlene Dumas
In the first gallery of "Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, hangs an oil painting of a washy gray skull set against a densely black background. The picture of the skull is in profile and takes up most of the canvas, which measures a little less than 4 x 5 ft. In the centuries-old tradition of vanitas, such still-lifes are meant to remind viewers that no amount of silver plate and glassware can stave off the inevitable. In the 17th and 18th centuries, vanitas pictures were among the commonest paintings produced by Netherlandish artists, and Dumas has lived in Amsterdam since 1976. This particular depicted skull, however, belonged to a woman. It is a memento mori for a way of seeing the world.
Half of the world is made up of women but the world does not seem as though it has been envisioned by them. Women still live in a world constructed and conceived by men. They do their best to fit in. Dumas, who was raised in South Africa, must be especially aware of that undercurrent of separateness. Still, she has fit herself into the world as a painter and asks for no special consideration. Instead, she takes on the history of art and makes her place in it with ambition and talent (Dumas paintings like The Teacher (Sub a) (1987) or Adult Entertainment (2000) have, of course, sold for hefty sums at auction). These paintings were made from the mind of a woman, and they are all the better for it.
"Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave," June 22-Sept. 22, 2008, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, Ca. 90012
Listen to the artist discuss select works from her exhibition Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave