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TARYN SIMON • Birds of the West Indies
Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA
February 27 - April 12, 2014
In a new exhibition of Fine Art, photographer Taryn Simon casts herself metaphorically in the role
of ornithologist James Bond, a man who in real life made an exhaustive study of Caribbean birds.
He was also the man whose full name novelist Ian Fleming lent to his fictional British secret agent 007, Commander James Bond.
Aping an authoritative role, Fine Artist Simon has created a large body of work and one that
is trying to appear scientific in its scope. She has assembled a methodical display of many of the actresses who have appeared in James Bond films and instead of showing them as they appeared
in the Bond films, Simon has asked them to sit for formal, very nobly lit portraits taken recently.
In defiance of the Bond women who did not agree with Simon's essay and chose not pose for her, Simon put empty black paper cutouts in place of new portraits. Symbolically they sit as if to say, I do not care about your feelings, I am putting you in my essay even if you do not agree with my essay’s stance and even though you said you do not want to be part of what I'm trying to say.
Subservient to these portraits, physically hanging directly below each one of them, Simon has offers up a portrait of the actual props used in James Bond movies. Portraits of fast cars, motorcycles, airplanes, guns and knives and other symbols of male aggression, competition and strength. But instead of nobly photographing them in light, Simon has literally condemned these artifacts to shadow as if to say: Do not worship these building blocks of heterosexual male youth. Instead make love to this gallery of post-menopausal women.
The exhibit continues in another room, where Simon has placed dead ‘Bond birds’ lying tagged in cases as if they were old relics and specimens of a bygone era.
While Simon’s effort is clinical, somber and exhaustingly executed, her message is also rather Aryan in its condemning view of the sexual fetishes of young heterosexual men, and in that rebuke the exhibition's whine manages to do something quite rare — it practices both misandry and misogyny at the same time.
This is where the problem lies.
Because if a similar exhibition was wrapped around the orientation, objectification and sexual fetishes of gay men, or gay women, or the emotional needs of straight women and it was presented to the public as the new authority on the subject, it would be labeled contemptuous and contemptuous bordering on intellectually immature, and immature to the point that it perpetuates the idea that women believe they need to change men. That some type of men are not in fact - a poor choice some women make. That all men are objects who should be shamed publicly until they come around and fulfill women emotionally in ways they need — but are unwilling to do for themselves.
And it's in the who wants what aspect in Simon's essay on heterosexual male behavior where she suggests, however indirectly, that it's alright for women to relinquish responsibility for their choices. That women can't see the difference between a man who treats them well versus a neurotic need they carry that made them pick the damaged bad boy. (You know, the sort of man whose conquest represents the biggest proof of the power of feminine allure). Rather, Taryn Simon's exhibition suggests it's better for women to put on an exaggerated 'hurt' display that tries to shame 'the James Bond bad boy.' Instead of opting that women — move on to making a healthier love choice.
This is where Taryn Simon’s conspiracy essay about straight men glazes over several points. That human beings are mammals (even if we think of ourselves as above them), and there is a big distinction between what triggers heterosexual male LUST in SOME men and the addiction that is needy codependent love. Additionally, marginalizing ALL men through this type of periscope is a flamboyant generalization, and one that suggests trying to tell everyone how to behave is an argument about TWO people when in fact the exhibit goes out of its way to mock the nature and desires of the type of men (and women) who don't share Simon's view.
So rather than condemning someone for liking what they like, it might be more respectful for all parties to have the epiphany many people do when ‘things are not working out’ and move on to find someone with whom your tastes lay. Because in the end, there is nothing that says everyone has to like fast cars, guns or young attractive women - but it is also not the privilege of one group to set limitations for the people who do.
Taryn Simon's Birds of the West Indies was on display at the Gagosian Gallery,
Beverly Hills, California from February 27 - April 12, 2014.
Review is © Ron Barbagallo 2014
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ARTICLES ON AESTHETICS IN ANIMATION
BY RON BARBAGALLO:
The Art of Making Pixar's Ratatouille is revealed by way of an introductory article followed by interviews with production designer Harley Jessup, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan and the film's writer/director Brad Bird.
Design with a Purpose, an interview with Ralph Eggleston uses production art from Wall-E to illustrate the production design of Pixar's cautionary tale of a robot on a futuristic Earth.
Shedding Light on the Little Matchgirl traces the path director Roger Allers and the Disney Studio took in adapting the Hans Christian Andersen story to animation.
The Destiny of Dalí's Destino, in 1946, Walt Disney invited Salvador Dalí to create an animated short based upon his surrealist art. This writing illustrates how this short got started and tells the story of the film's aesthetic.
A Blade Of Grass is a tour through the aesthetics of 2D background painting at the Disney Studio from 1928 through 1942.
Lorenzo, director / production designer Mike Gabriel created a visual tour de force in this Academy Award® nominated Disney short. This article chronicles how the short was made and includes an interview with Mike Gabriel.
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an interview with Graham G. Maiden's narrates the process involved with taking Tim Burton's concept art and translating Tim's sketches and paintings into fully articulated stop motion puppets.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, in an interview exclusive to this web site, Nick Park speaks about his influences, on how he uses drawing to tell a story and tells us what it was like to bring Wallace and Gromit to the big screen.
For a complete list of PUBLISHED WORK AND WRITINGS by Ron Barbagallo,
click on the link above and scroll down.
Taryn Simon is an Angry Bird of the West Indies
© 2014 Ron Barbagallo
Photograph of the askew Gallery Entrance by Ron Barbagallo
INDEX OF SERVICES
The Ethical Method of Repair
The Attention is in the Details
Not Straw, Not Sticks, Not Brick -
The Three Pigs get a New House
the Lost and FOUND series