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PRINT Summer 2019

AGAINST NATURE

James Bidgood, Willow Tree (detail), ca. 1965, digital C-print, 19 × 15".

PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER James Bidgood might agree with a sentiment expressed in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband: To be natural “is such a very difficult pose to keep up.” From 1960 to 1970—the period between the US court decisions affirming the redeeming social value of male physique photographs and subsequent ones establishing a legal definition of pornography—Bidgood constructed an elaborate artificial world for himself. His small, hermetic body of work combines eroticism and a vivid, campy vulgarity. Although artists such as Pierre et Gilles, David LaChapelle, and Steven Arnold have ransacked Bidgood’s oeuvre for inspiration, his work is too idiosyncratic and homemade, and the artist himself too reclusive, to be called canonical. Stranded outside any easily definable mainstream, he has been rescued for posterity on a number of occasions, the latest being the exhibition “James

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