For the past 20 years, gay artist John Sonsini has been painting portrait after portrait of Latino men. More recently, Sonsini has become fascinated with the mostly Mexican and Central American immigrants hoping to be hired for a day’s work as they wait on street corners near his Los Angeles studio.Sure, Blade art reviewer (and "Date Bait" co-founder) Rafael Risenberg says that these paintings are "some of the most sensuous, and sensitive, portrayals of the common man I have ever seen."
Furthermore he argues that the work is actually a collaboration between painter and subject: "In the back of the canvas, artist and subjects alike sign their names, denoting the collaborative nature of the work," adding "As humble as these men appear, there is a dignity to their countenances."
As if that wasn't enough, the Chaim & Reade gallery - where the exhibit is being held - posts a statement online in which we are assured that "the men here are not models, nor are they objectified."
Hm, I guess we should take their word for it?
I won't speak to the artistic merit of the work because I haven't seen the exhibit but there is something that rubs me the wrong way when it takes a gallery in the heart of upscale gay Manhattan to tell me that the images of migrant workers are not objectified.
Come to think of it, even after the exhibit is gone, local art lovers are in for a treat because they can actually see some of these "humble" and "dignified" "common" people in their midst! They just have to take the #7 train to the Woodside station at 6am in the morning and walk down Roosevelt Avenue observing the young men with back-packs on their shoulders scrambling for work. Not sure how "collaborative" the experience will be but they can certainly project their desires on these men. Then again, I'm sure the gallery will have some heating which beats the 20 degree temperatures prognosticated for next week. Better yet, if you confine yourself to the gallery, you won't have to worry your pretty little heads about these men's futures. Enjoy!