Los Angeles

Marcelino Gonçalves


In Marcelino Gonçalves’s provocatively titled Receiver (all works 2002), a beaming football beauty, his hair curly and lustrous, his smile exuberant, almost glows as he crouches, seemingly ready to score the winning touchdown—his life a series of wins, from the look of him—a yellow goalpost in the distance. Or so it would seem. The rendering of the gridiron idol is as clean and crisp as his jersey, but no actual jersey could be so fresh. The background field’s blurred greens and yellows suggest, perhaps, a photographer’s studio; and given the unsullied perfection of his jersey, the jock’s a model in a pose, his exuberance produced on demand.

Gonçalves doesn’t make paintings about clone gym bunnies, bear culture, circuit parties, or rainbow parades. He excels at landscapes and well-appointed interiors, often containing lone male figures in chic (art-directed?) scenery. The twenty-four small paintings here provided a sense of narrative, but not with any specific plot or story (for example, of love found and then lost), despite the fact that individual paintings hint at erotic scenarios, transactions, and travails, even fetishes. Sometimes cinematic qualities link them. In one untitled piece, a solemn man in a mohair sweater sits in an armchair, in what looks like a hotel room, suggested by a curtain in the background. Sheer, placed next to that painting, could be read as a close-up of the same curtain. Recalling the recent photographic forays of Christian Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane, the fabric’s undulating folds push representation toward nonrepresentation.

Gayness, both connoted and denoted, never stabilizes in the canvases, but it may help negotiate how they’re painted. Gonçalves is marking some dissolve in the sexual valence of representations of masculinity, which is why blur, fogginess, or sudden veering away from the photorealistic subtly disturb almost every painting. Consider that gayness is the contemporary signifier ne plus ultra of bourgeois subjectivity: How interesting to imagine these works as if gayness were deployed by Gonçalves to take on the history of painting’s bourgeois status while simultaneously attempting to resexualize homosexuality (the show’s title was “Twelve Inches”), which by now has been Will & Grace’d to the point that it looks like, well, normative reproductive heterosexuality. In a culture in which masculinity has long been Bruce Weber–ized, male “modeling” no longer bears the stigma of faggotry, hot bodily maintenance and GQ style are de rigueur from Facethejury.com to Blind Date, and military and police uniforms “drag” masculinity in the way a boa and sequins drag femininity, what would it mean to consider masculinity and/or gay-male desire as a difference of vision, of the visible? In Gonçalves’s paintings, gayness becomes an atmosphere, even a quality of light; and whatever other they may confide (enchantment, radiance), the atmosphere and light suggest something bittersweet, ominous, even sinister, something still being negotiated.

In another work, an umpiring crew huddles, but some of their bodies are disassembled, with torsos not connecting with heads, hands not leading to arms. The bodies merge as paint merges—abstraction as the erotic zone between figuration and the figure losing coherence. Three uniformed and nattily accessorized (tie tacks, holster sashes) dudes idle near a woody area in Trio. Two are fit, their hair and goatees, like their physiques, impeccably maintained; the third is paunchy and wears glasses; across his head sits a headpiece for radio communication. What they’re doing (and why they’re doing it) may be unverifiable, a situation allegorizing painting itself, but it has something to do with desire.

Bruce Hainley