New York

Sally Mann

Gagosian Gallery

The male nude that is the subject of the thirty-three photographs in Sally Mann’s “Proud Flesh” series, 2004–2009, on view in Gagosian’s recent exhibition, is about as far from the ideal of ancient sculpture as it is possible to get. There are a few torsos, but their arms and legs are invariably cut off by the edge of the picture. Disturbingly, it’s not clear that the missing limbs are implied. Like certain of Max Ernst’s and René Magritte’s limbless torsos, they are all skin, as if they were depictions of T. S. Eliot’s “hollow men.” In other words, Mann focuses on what psychoanalysts call part objects; there is no whole object, only fragments of a disintegrating object, and a peculiar kind of insubstantiality to all the flesh on display.

A further difference from ancient statuary is that the skin of Mann’s figure is marred, not just because of the “flaws” generated by her photographic

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