Ironing Man, by David Hilliard
Last Friday was “First Friday,” so all the art is fresh in the SoWa galleries off Harrison, and I thought I’d check out that rather than the overrated new ICA (but don’t worry, I’ll get to it). The hunk above is currently on view at the Bernard Toale Gallery, which is split between (yet another) David Hilliard show, The Favorite, and an interesting installation by Joe Fig (more on that in a future post). The Favorite is what grabs you first, even if these sparkling prints represent something like the same-old, same-old from Hilliard. Ironing Man is typical of his familiar dip- and triptychs: the limpid color is sumptuous, the everyday situation lit with a faint grace, and the subtext cluttered with sexual hints. In much of The Favorite, alas, the hints probably qualify as nudges: the shirtless lads look like they just stepped out of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, and only the eponymous work reaches the level of complexity we expect from Hilliard at his best. In Ironing Man, of course, the artist does play with time as well as space (note the jumble of shirts to the left vs. the ironed row to the right). And the work offers a wry wink at the dual identity of many gay men: with his clothes off, this strapping fellow’s habitat might be the Ramrod, but here he’s diligently prepping his corporate drag – a row of crisp buttoned-downs from Pink. If he wore a cock ring, rest assured it would stay under his suit at Deloitte & Touche. But are a wink and a nudge enough to sustain a gallery show? It may be time for a new direction for this highly skilled photographer.