For Your Eyes Only, Curator's Notes: "Vulnerability and the Male Nude Form"
“La beauté de visage est un fréle ornement, une fleur passagère, un éclat d'un moment. Et qui n'est attaché qu à la simple epiderme.”
“Beauty of face is a frail ornament, a passing flower, a momentary brightness belonging only to the skin.” MOLIERE
Curator's Notes: Vulnerability and the Male Nude Form
How does one look at the naked human form devoid of any emotion? In our barest, we are vulnerable; and that vulnerability by sheer sight is transferred to the one that views the image stirring emotions that may last for a fraction of a millisecond or may affect him all his life.
Throughout the ages of man, in their infinite variety, Artists have attempted to capture the beauty of the human form. Our museums are a testament to the many paintings and sculptures that have defined movement after movement in Art History. From archaic forms in pottery, frescoes, to sophisticated Renaissance statuary, and paintings that attempted to capture the fleeting quality of light and shadow, we are given an insight as to the zeitgeist of every age that required Art to be as it is: a reflection of the age.
The human body was glorified and vilified as it was seen through time. The naked body was viewed by the Greeks as the perfect final note of the song of creation, the Romans used the strong male form as propaganda for power and conquest, the early Christians saw an almost naked crucified man as the triumph of salvation while frowned upon nudity anywhere else and saw it as a catalyst for immorality, while the Renaissance Men viewed it as a challenge to represent in their masterworks.
But the fascination with the naked form has always been subjected to the changing morality of the times. In the last restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the restorers removed the loincloths and covers that were painted over Michelangelo’s naked figures, to bring them back to their former naked glory.
The advent of photography presented the human race with the ability to keep a fleeting moment in time stay as it is for the eyes to behold. And what is most remarkable but most often neglected in their accessibility in the digital age with a click -is that in its earliest days, to take a single photograph took more than just a camera- it required a mastery of light and time by covering and uncovering the lens while counting away the seconds to capture in a thin silver sheet an image that which time may let pass.
The 20th century was the most visual of all the ages of man, anything and everything that can be recorded in still and moving pictures provided us glimpses of history rather than words in a book. But more than history, Photography became a new medium to encapsulate the human form and in itself developed into an art. Technology and the innovations that came forth made photography accessible to almost anyone who can afford it, and as the cliché goes, suddenly just about anyone is a photographer.
But as Thackeray once set in poetry, “Art is long, and time is fleeting”, and this is not an Art History lecture. Yet the point I am making is best presented with that which I have labored to compose here to accompany the exhibition and our choices therein.
I first beheld Ian Felix Alquiros' photographs as an online observer. The sheer number of reactions posted and people that paid attention to his work also had me looking to see what he would post next. Ian's photographs were very simple in their intent, there was nothing too contrived about his subjects nor was there anything too complicated to process. Having taken photography as a requirement in college, a few years before the digital cameras and DSLRs hit the market to the point of over-saturation, I had an appreciation for Ian's style of available light photography for my training was film based [Yes people, it's that thing that comes in a roll encased in a plastic canister that has been replaced by memory cards and sticks.].
While in pre-production for this exhibition, I learned that Ian's preference of subject and the presentation thereof was more of a practical choice in the process of developing his style as a portrait photographer. Time, which he had very little of when he started, was not a luxury he had thus he would opt for shoots that required less prep time. Which meant light, plus model, plus or minus basic articles of clothing, equals photograph.
In this collection, For Your Eyes Only, Ian Felix Alquiros does away with clothing and bathes his subjects with light and the manipulation thereof resulting to a plethora of anatomical forms, a myriad of skin tones, playful innocence, innuendo, erotica [subtle or otherwise depending on the effect], humor, contrast, maturity, stillness, motion, even just plain voyeurism. Therefore the task of grouping and choosing what to feature and what to take away was no walk in the park. My understanding of the male form is influenced by my experience in the aesthetics of painting and sculpture. And still as photographs are, they are stories unto themselves -and stories make for good theater. And by good theater, I do not by any way mean the next nude photo scandal that may surface on the internet which seems to keep the Pinoy psyche entertained by using them as fodder for gossip and cheap entertainment.
What we seek to present here are men who dared to show themselves as they are, as time would have them, in their skin. The reactions it may cause is all up to you.
In the process of choosing which photographs would make it to the final cut, Ian once asked, “Is there something else that you see in my photographs?” -which was surprising but also expected. To which I responded, “Yes.” With a firm resolve that others may be able to see what I see in them; that I am not alone in what I see -or maybe- just maybe, they may see something else.
As a Production Designer by trade, the collection requires a clean sense of theatricality. People may refer to the concept of Zen or Minimalism when one goes about presenting these, but Zen is the least of the initial states of being once you behold these men in their barest. I keep going back to the word Vulnerability, and the transference of it in experiencing these photographs. For it is my firm belief that Art is there to rattle the status quo; but that's just me being noble about it. Plainly, I don't think there's anything wrong about being naked. For in that state of vulnerability, one learns a lot about one's self.
Niki de los Reyes-Torres, PATDAT Production Designer by trade, Symbolist by passion, Curator: For Your Eyes Only