San Francisco

Lutz Bacher

Mincher/Wilcox Gallery

Sex, a perennially popular subject, has achieved unusual prominence of late. In what is primarily a male, homosexual phenomenon, artists are examining gender roles, politics, and pleasure often in the shadow of the twin specters of AIDS and censorship. Lutz Bacher’s recent series, entitled “Men in Love,” consists of 12-inch squares of unframed mirror, fixed invisibly to the wall like a suite of gleaming Minimalist objects. A short text, varying in length from a sentence to a paragraph, is silk-screened dead center on each slick surface. The jittery, ever-so-slightly-off register reflection of the small black words on the silver behind them forces the reader to intimately scrutinize the works, as they stare directly into their own eyes. The texts are explicit, auto-erotic recipes by 31 men for self-administered orgasms.

In a time that now feels long ago and far away, masturbation represented an optimistic triumph of self-sufficiency for the avatars of the newly-created women’s movement. Nowadays, in an age of fatal STDs and increasingly precarious reproductive rights, onanism has once again become a political statement about survival, though of a profoundly different kind. These little recitations about the Stronger Sex engaging in the Safest Sex—with a hollowed-out loaf of bread, in a pile of freshly cut grass, or even, in one remarkable feat, by inserting the male member into one’s own nearby orifice—are in turn hilarious, erotic, and astonishing. They combine the greasily addictive quality of good smut with a ferocious revelation of utter solitude. Whether the speaker is gay or straight, fetishist or exhibitionist, the viewer, gazing narcissistically at his or her own face in the mirror, is equally alone, since the presentation of these texts makes it impossible to share the experience of reading them with anyone else.

In her ironic use of a cool, distanced format for the presentation of this very warm material, Bacher is in the company of artists such as Tony Tasset, David Diao, and Ashley Bickerton, who have recycled the formal strategies of Minimalism to address a variety of post-Modern concerns. As a woman, however, Bacher’s appropriation is novel. By choosing to present us with this private male monologue, she reminds us of both the insistent particularity of physical sensation and the universal experience of emotions like love and sadness. No matter how radically Freud’s theories are rehabilitated to incorporate a wider spectrum of sexual possibilities, certain activities will always remain gender-specific. Yet before Bacher’s mirrors this particularity disappears; the face you see is always your own.

Maria Porges

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