Men or Mice? The MENZ show at Flux by Cara Ober

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Spring Thaw review by Rachel Sitkin

The MENZ show at Flux had a humorous flier and an interesting premise: MALE expressions in paint. After all of the ‘MENSES’ art exhibits and vagina art that male viewers are forced to endure, I thought that this exhibit might be an interesting response and a fresh take on gender related issues in art.

I attempted to interview the four artists involved in the exhibit – Seth Goodman, Greg McLemore, Ryan Jedlicka, and Rob Sparrow Jones, as well as the curator, about the exhibit, but the only one who responded was Greg.

I can only speculate that the rest of the non-answers are an answer in themselves. In the tradition of remote-clickin’, beer guzzling guys all around, these men continue the non-verbal, grunt once for yes and two for no, trend. Oh well, who needs words when you have paint?

After viewing the show, my theory is that this just happens to be an exhibit by painters who happen to be male, rather than an exploration of an issue or theme. The works are all interesting enough, separately, but don’t seem to add anything to each other, the way a thematic show should. McLemore and Goodman have an obvious relationship and common language and have exhibited together before. While Jedlicka provides some much needed pep and color and Rob Jones some pervy male gaze-cum-delight in all things pretty, the four painters don’t come together to teach me anything I didn’t already know about dudes.

I think the contemporary ‘male gaze’ is worth exploring and, of the four, Jones’ paintings of barbies in the rough, as well as a young boy playing with rockets, seemed to be most ‘on topic’ for this show. I would like to see more of this type of subject matter from Jones in the future and also, more careful curating when it comes to a thematic show.

Painting by Greg McLemore above. The interview with Greg McLemore is as follows:

Cara: In the email invite I got from Flux, it said, “The Menz Show curated by Jeremy Crawford is featuring 4 of Baltimore’s hottest male painters.” How does it feel to be one of the four hottest male painters in Baltimore? And, in your opinion, does this hotness refer to your physical attractiveness or your popularity as artists?

Greg: It feels hot and… pass

Cara: There are LOTS of female only art exhibits and events – “Girls Night Out” was a recent one… Is the MENZ show a response to all of these female exhibits?

Greg: Best source for that info would be the curator, but I could speculate a yes.

Painting by Ryan Jedlicka.

Cara: The poster advertising the show appears to be humorous and self-depreciating. Are you four making fun of yourselves, or of men in general, in this exhibit?

Greg: I try not to make too much fun of myself, as there are plenty who will be glad to do that for me (wanh, wanh, wanh, wanhhh) but yes, the card is certainly mocking the 50’s male stereotype.. and I think the humor really comes into play when you look at the paintings beside the poster. I am not making fun of men, as I am in fact, one… I didn’t have a hand in making the poster, though I think it is hilarious…and eases any tension an exhibit called “The Menz Show” might create… but at the same time cranks up the excitement of the concept… (really genius in its method).

Cara: In your opinion, do male and female artists express themselves differently? If so, how? I mean, we’ve all seen too much ‘Vagina Art’ I think… but is there such a thing as ‘Penis Art’? And if so, what does it look like?

Greg: Damn. what a question! I will try…According to Art History there seem to be differences between man and woman art… the woman as object versus the woman as person, namely). And yes, there has certainly been a lot of vagina art (most of which I love) I think there is a lot of gay erotic “penis art” and then there is the “Phallic Force” … the male projection as it were. I feel that my art projects in this way, at least in comparison to artists that work in a more circular or non- focal point oriented method… I suppose the latter method could be called woumbic?
I feel very connected with female painters – Paula Rego, Sue Coe, Marlene Dumas (to name a few big ones) ..I am very interested in the pain and viciousness I see in certain women painters… and see it as very inspirational,.. not on a woman to man level, but on a human to human one.

Cara: All four of the painters in this show seem to bring a different approach to the act of painting – in style and media, and also have a different aesthetic and seemingly different subject matter. How do the works read cohesively and what are some of the contrasts between you?

Greg: I am still getting acquainted with Robert and Ryan’s work so I will focus on Seth. We have shown together several times now, and have been friends for over 10 years. We are alike in that the subject matter – we are both somewhat existentialistic and Kafka-esque..we differ in that Seth’s narratives are much more specific and exacting than mine… perhaps it could be said that he is more of an intellectual painter and I am more of an emotional painter… though we both share and fluctuate between these two extremes. I am very interesting in creating emotion and mood, while I believe Seth’s work addresses the viewers thought process. … I’m thinking… if he is Rivera I am Frida – minus the errr, relationship. I can tell you more of the others after I see the show hung (i haven’t seen what Rob and Ryan have yet)

Cara: What do you hope viewers of The Menz Show will take away from the show? Is there any insight about MEN or MENZ that I will gain from the exhibit?

Greg: I hope the viewers will gain a deeper understanding of my thoughts, and be able to relate them to their own lives… or better yet, to have some kind of transcendental experience, or at least, get a good laugh. As far as insight about MENZ, geez, I haven’t the slightest idea or for that matter, expectation. I am fighting so hard not to make off color jokes… so, so hard.

Ryan Jedlicka wins for best haircut.

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