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24/06 2012 – 04/08 2012

Mendes Wood DM is excited to announce Companions, the first solo show of Steve Locke at the gallery; the exhibition gathers new paintings on wood supports, works on paper, a sculpture and a neon installation containing the phrase “you don’t deserve me” in blue. Companions is grounded in a discussion little elaborated in Brazil – archetypes of beauty and form relating to desire from a black, queer vantage point. 

In Locke's work, a mood of sexuality and humor is blended with a tone of self-effacement. The gaze of the painter and the gaze of the subject overlap to create a space of unspoken desire. Punctuating the tension sustained by the subject’s glances is the point of a tongue – just as the spoken word broaches silence. The tongue, an organ both of speech and sensual pleasure, could allude to the classical depiction of the gorgon Medusa, often rendered with her tongue out, recalling the sort of wry humor of the Greeks: Medusa, an embodiment of unfettered female sexuality, makes men literally stiff.

Locke is in a lineage of artists who work, informed by feminism, around identity and sexuality such as Marcel Duchamp, Jurgen Klauke or Robert Mapplethorpe. By addressing the fluidity of desire, such artists privilege questions of inter-sexuality allowing the viewer to experience a sort of sexual otherness. In Rrose Selavy, Duchamp plays with Eros as a his alter ego – “Rrose Selavy,” or “Eros c’est la vie” (“Eros is life.”) Duchamp puts forward a notion of transformative play and theater, where the artist, the actor, allowing the audience to experience otherness, appropriates roles. In a similar manner, Locke speaks of this life of Eros, as an energetic field where our identity can be negotiated just as in the artistic practice. Recalling a work on sexual otherness by Barbara Kruger, “You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men.” 

In Locke the liberty to touch is achieved through the gaze as his subjects meet in daily circumstances, in which libidinal tension is built – much like the space of desire framed by cruising other men in urban environments. Being the other or living otherness is one of Steve’s main concerns. The state of freedom so sought after by the artist is that where identity is most fluid and able to attain the most profound experiences of art. The painterly surfaces of Locke connote those of surfaces of the bodies that he allows himself to explore.

Steve Locke is an artist and Associate Professor in the Art Education department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA. He has exhibited at The Boston Center For the Arts, Boston, MA; The Artists Foundation, Boston, MA; The Danforth Museum, Framingham, MA; Platform Gallery in Seattle, WA; Ramona Studios, New York and Gallery Peopeo in Beijing, China. Locke is represented by Samsøn, Boston, MA. His current exhibition there (on view until 21 July) is called you don't deserve me. In August of 2013, he will have a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

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