Time Out New York / Sep 4–10, 2008

“Love Is a Cannibal”

Becky Smith, proprietor of Chelsea gallery Bellwether, takes the curatorial reins in this ultraselective survey of photographic art exploring representations of gay male desire. Featuring eight works by three artists, the show drops a few hints about its contributors’ individual obsessions and employs some diverting technical trickery. But most viewers will leave “Love Is a Cannibal” frustrated by the rootless feel of many of Smith’s selections.

The four entries from Jesse Finley Reed’s series “If You’re Lonely…” (2006–2008) are easily the most striking inclusions. Mirroring the anonymity that characterizes the online communities from which the models were sourced, Reed poses his unnamed, unclothed subjects in featureless darkened spaces. He then illuminates them from behind so that a gentle nimbus outlines their bodies without revealing their identities. The element of mystery is both seductive and threatening, suggesting that Web-based hookups are inherently shadowed by danger.

The mood of David Benjamin Sherry’s “Wendigogo” Brooklyn, NY (2008) is, superficially at least, somewhat lighter. The print depicts what looks like the set of a wayward amateur theater production, a paper-and-paste tree transformed into a leering dryad with a red-and-gold phallus for a nose. Sherry seems to be aiming for a subversive application of outrageous, faux-mythological imagery, but the lack of context leaves his efforts looking just over-the-top. Similarly, three prints by Tyler Coburn also seem adrift: While otherwise quietly interesting, his experiments in manipulating and juxtaposing found and original images flounder in this insufficiently diverse company.

Image: David Benjmin Sherry, "Wendigogo Brooklyn, NY, 2008