Christopher Clary – Discovery Award, Rencontres d’Arles 2011
Christopher Clary made an installation for an exhibition called Gay Men Play that I put together for the New York Photo Festival in 2009, about the use of photography by gay men as a tool for communicating about sex. The room he created, wallpapered with images he collected and output from his hard drive, was smart and affecting. But his work is only partly about photographs as social and sexual currency. In publicly exploring his desire for a particular photographic archetype of manhood, and the male nude, Clary poignantly mines issues of sexual fiction, self-confidence and male vulnerability.
Christopher Clary is a multidisciplinary installation artist who uses appropriated and his own photography to confront issues of sexuality and masculinity. At the core of his practice is a collection of gay porn—magazines that document the bear, leather and trucker communities over a twenty year period, and a digital collection including 1,500 men downloaded from professional and amateur sex and social network websites. The collection becomes the starting point for the creation of works that consider his own sexual and social identity, and the production and consumption of images of male sexuality. Clary’s installation in Arles includes a presentation of his porn photographs in a raw state; magazines on display and thumbnails printed on wallpaper. Within the space, images of Kevin from the collection are blown up on canvas and stacked in groups—JPG windows manifested as larger-than-life paintings. The installation also includes two series of photographs, involving Clary’s encounters with men from his collection in real life: invited to slowly undress over a period of two hours in front of a camera in his studio, Clary sets the camera to make photographs automatically every five seconds. As singular images, the results seem similar to the photographs in the collection, but the series as a whole reveals and explores a subtext to the ‘male nude’, with his encounters provoking and revealing expressions of vulnerability and pain as well as sexual self-confidence and desire.
Artist presented by Chris Boot.
Exhibition venue: Grande Halle, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2011.