Screwy, misbegotten, and antiquated ideas of masculinity have contributed to this moment of sexual harassment revelations and making American great again. The male mask has gotten so old and rigid it’s cracking. Queer, effeminate, dark, and vulnerable stuff is seeping out from beneath.
Geoffrey Chadsey stares it all in the face in his drawings at the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery at Boston University. His monstrous and fantastical portraits synthesize images he draws from the Internet: Selfies on gay hookup sites (where masculinity is always a performance), photojournalism, and any digital detritus that catches his eye.
He draws these portraits in watercolor pencil and crayon on transparent Mylar, erasing and leaving ghostly traces, so that the process of drawing echoes the changes of pose, and changes of self. Several figures have many arms; several are nude. Some have breasts or broad hips. The genitalia alone signal the conundrum — or the vast menu — of sex and gender. There are penises, and disturbing voids; some have a rope, braid, or fingers for genitals.
A familiar red baseball cap flies off the head of the man with many limbs seated on an easy chair in “Reacher.” His wild hair and beard are leonine; his mouth is a black, tooth-lined circle, his eyes beady, his face that of a frightened beast on the defensive. The dude in “Camouflage” poses for a selfie; hands emerge from his shoulders, and he wears a red mask with a circular rainbow at the mouth.
Chadsey’s men are outrageous, yet evasive. In investigating the glittery surface of self-presentation, this artist reveals something harrowing and desperately protective in the interstices. We may be enticed by these guys, but we’ll never get to know them. That slipperiness may be a product of digital identity. Or it just may be the way we have always been, and the Internet is merely a burlesque stage, and the mirror we crave and loathe.
GEOFFREY CHADSEY: HEROES AND SECONDARIES
At Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery, Boston University, 855 Commonwealth Ave., through Dec. 10. 617-353-3329, www.bu.edu/artCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.