Art

Gazing at the Voyeur

John Kayser at The Journal Gallery.

Gazing at the Voyeur
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Last week the much anticipated John Kayser show “Sitting” opened at The Journal Gallery in Williamsburg. The focus of Kayser’s eye and the decade in which he was prolific are both unambiguous. The title “Sitting” cleverly reflects both the classical notion of a subject posing for an artist and also the seat of the anatomy which figures so prominently in both Kayser’s work and The Journal Gallery’s promotion of it. And while Kayser’s work spans the ‘60s through the ‘80s, curators Peter Miles and Shirley Cook seem to have foregrounded his color photographs from the 1970s.

 

Kayser, as a photographer, resolves the dichotomy between the classical artist and the post-war outsider. He portraiture recalls classical sculpture depicting a nude, but the secretive California photographic practice by this WWII veteran evoked for me a Joaquin Phoenix-type character from The Master with the caveat that he didn’t look like Joaquin Phoenix. We know this because he is often featured in the pictures and one of my gallery companions declared that he looked like Jerry Stiller. He is often featured in the midst of the delicate kiss of cunnilingus. Or with his face being dominated by one the subjects, the most famous of these being a woman named Rose.


Of course, these tiny hints into Kayser’s milieux combined with the larger ambiguity about his identity and the way he and his world become vessels for the viewer’s imagination is a large part of the appeal that Miles and Cook have tapped into. Sitting combined with Gay Talese’s recent peeping Tom story in the New Yorker both suggest that as our world approaches full Google Street View mapping and total sharing, we have arrived at a moment of nostalgia for a voyeuristic moment when there was still something forbidden to see.

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