Critics’ Picks

View of “Pacifico Silano,” 2015–16.

New York

Pacifico Silano

Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York
126 Baxter Street
December 10 - January 16

In the 1970s and ’80s, the Pictures artists reworked Marlboro ads, Hollywood-film motifs, Walker Evans photographs, and the front page of the New York Times. Their focus was the stuff of mass media, the images that couldn’t not be seen. This was pre-Internet—remember?—and their materials’ natural habitats, among others, were magazines and newspapers, printed cheaply and consumed by everyone.

For the fifteen works currently on view in “Tearsheets,” Pacifico Silano has emulated this practice, though his material is decidedly less mainstream. Mining the pages of Blueboy, Honcho, and Torso, three gay-porn magazines that were eventually felled by the Web, Silano arranges clipped and ripped fragments against immaculate expanses of flat black or white. Images are tightly cropped and barren of context: We see a smiling, mustachioed mouth biting down on a cherry, and the lower halves of two shirtless figures posing as dance partners. A badly tattered page shows a close-up image of a man wearing a Native American headdress, its intricate patterns and the warm, shining tone of his skin realized by a coarse array of four-color dots. The printing method is just as well worn as this type of stereotypical gay imagery, this mock-up of male sexuality.

Silano’s compositions are winsome and coy, rarely granting us a full view. Nude and seminude men peer back at us through single eyes—the others either trimmed off, hidden, or covered with dustings of what appears to be cocaine. Their gazes have been thwarted; we become voyeurs, staring down into their 2-D world of short jean shorts and ads for disco records. We can clearly see their iconographic power, but we also see that it’s wearing away at the edges.