Le(a)d Astray

Le(a)d Astray

Curated by John Chaich
Independent Curator, Designer & Writer   | show bio

About John Chaich

John Chaich is a curator, designer and writer living in New York City. His recent curatorial project, Queer Threads: Crafting Identity & Community at the Leslie-Lohman Museum’s of Gay & Lesbian Art, NYC, garnered praise in The New York Times, ArtNews, Hyperallergic, The Huffington Post, and New York Magazine and became the Museum’s most well attended exhibition in its 29-year history. The 2011 exhibition he curated, Mixed Messages: A(I)DS, Art & Words, for Visual AIDS at LaMama Galleria, NYC, debuted to critical acclaim in The New York Times and Artforum before traveling to DC to coincide with the International AIDS Conference. He curated public programs and collaborations for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland for four years and has designed and co-curated annual social marketing campaigns for Visual AIDS for a decade. Chaich has written on art and pop culture for BUST and Art & Understanding magazines, as well as PPOW Gallery.
September 29, 2014
All the sad young men, singing in the cold.
Trying to forget, that they're growing old.
All the sad young men, choking on their youth.
Trying to be brave, running from the truth.

From “Ballad of Sad Young Men”, composed 1959.
Music by Jay Landesman. Lyrics by Fran Landesman.

From frantic sketching in a school notebook to illustrating elaborative superhero cartoons, drawing has long provided an outlet for men—from boyhood to manhood—to retreat from and reimagine their current roles, status, and posture. The intensity with which one draws can match the intensity with which cultural standards of masculinity influence both men and women, boys and girls. By finding a parallel between the physicality of the medium with the emotionality of the subject, a range of contemporary artists—both male and female, across sexual identities and often informed by feminist or queer strategies—are working in drawing in order to both revert the social constructs and reveal the emotional complexities of masculinity today.

The artists collected in Le(a)d Astray explore the intersection of masculinity and vulnerability through the at once escapist and present, hyper-realistic nature of drawing.

Several works will marry the obsessive maintenance of masculinity with the entrancing process of drawing through hyper-realistic or abstract techniques. Zachari Logan’s meticulous wall-sized mural depicts two male figures—perhaps father and son, two lovers, or the same young man and a future projection of himself—amid a richly detailed flowerbed. The young man stands naked, but the artist approaches nudity as more vulnerable than erotic. Scott Hunt’s expert use of charcoal pencils captures a secret world where a man shows off in women’s lingerie. Through shadow and light, Bryan LeBoeuf’s Mosh Pit captures psychic escape and physical trust, bravado and submission. In contrast to these detailed works, with a decidedly feminist streak, other works will revert the male gaze and reexamine the male body through posture and physicality. René Smith appropriates a pose from women’s fashion magazines to present a languid, dreamy male figure. Patrick Earl Hammie exposes a male figure’s flabby flesh that is being forcibly grabbed at by a partner’s hands; in doing so, the artist examines male body image and subverts male aggression.

Lastly, both masculinity as a metaphor and metaphors for masculinity will be explored through other hyper-detailed and sometimes playful work. Echoed by Vincent Valdez exquisite portrait of a boxer with a broken nose after the fight, Shaun Leonardo employ gestural stroke of the line and painterly use of light and negative space to create self-portraits through the symbol of a prizefighter’s belt. Z. Behl’s intricately drawn, oversized (in)security blanket is frayed and literally on its last threads, like outdated notions of masculinity. Lisa Iglesias’ detailed drawings tenderly capture cowboys falling off unseen horses—an icon weakened in space. Cynthia Lin’s ultra-magnified scar drawing contrasts biology with sociology as an allusion to the male’s potential for violence and healing.

Together, Le(a)d Astray aims to be more revelatory than celebratory, asking if the deep-rooted yet ever-evolving ideals of masculinity can lead astray and/or empower personal agency. More diaristic than didactic, these artists’ sensitive use of lead, charcoal, and graphite blur the drawn lines between the susceptible and the powerful, the masculine and the feminine.
Graphite on paper
110 x 210 inches

Charcoal on paper
15 x 14.25 inches

Charcoal on paper
24 x 36 inches

Pencil on Paper
17 x 17 inches

Charcoal on paper
60 x 42 inches

Ink on paper
29 x 22.5 inches

Pencil on paper
40 x 32inches

Pencil on paper
32 x 40 inches

Pencil, oil pastel and vellum on paper
60 x 77 inches

Graphite and charcoal on paper
52 x 44 inches