Stuart Mead

Speed Boat Gallery

One of the most memorable paintings in this exhibition depicts a vaudeville strip show from the perspective of someone standing backstage right: you see the stripper from behind, and by gazing past her you can look at the audience as well. In the foreground there’s a clown with a big smile on his face trying to introduce a goofy note into what he understands is a complicated but undeniably male exercise in sexual power. His face recalls faces seen in rush hour traffic, at panel discussions, on TV: a face that’s been caught looking but doesn’t want to stop, that mirrors a soul lost somewhere between desire and guilt, that transforms shame into comic gesture before registering tragic self-denial.

For years, Stuart Mead has used the vaudeville stage as a metaphor for the structure of male visual pleasure. Like most of Mead’s dramatic templates (public-bath scenes, circus scenes, scenes of men

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