Colby KernMore from table manners (2015)

Kern telegraphs his familiarity with Nan Goldin and Araki too much for my taste. (There’s some Ryan McGinley in there as well, which would at least be more in keeping with the work.)

It’s unfortunate because there are a couple of things his work does that turns out to be more interesting–at least to me–than the work he’s referencing.

For example: he has no qualms depicting graphic nudity. Yet, when sexual overtones emerge in the images, he always either partially or completely obscures his subjects genitals. Frequently, the frame edges or someone else provide assistance in such obscuring. It comes across as very nearly playful–which is why I think McGinley is perhaps the better reference to pursue given only the three aforementioned photographers.

I think this image is especially interesting because of the triangulation. The image maker is a participant in the image–he may not be casting that dark shadow on the lower table but with the guy looking at his hand covering the boys groin and the boy making eyes at the camera, the circular table cycles the eye continually around the frame. (I do think there should have been a third cup or no cups, however.)

Lastly, although I can’t figure out exactly how to explain it–I feel like there’s some genderfuckery at play in this. The boy stretched out on the table is both clearly masculine but the pose and the way he’s flirting with the camera are something one would typically see in fashion editorials target straight white cismen. Yet the placement of the blocking hand does more than anything to activate a sort of suggestion of androgyny. (Yes, if you follow the implication far enough–I’m pretty sure it turns out to be a problematic depiction. But it’s a sentimental image and when fine art folks eschew sentiment it’s not so much that sentiment in itself is bad; more the tendency to respond out of habit instead of thoughtfully. (It’s the same reason poets are told to avoid cliches, really.)

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