Conduct any level of research on feminism and related concepts such as "the male gaze" or "objectification," and you'll fall into the crossfire of intellectual warriors shouting at one another. "Man objectifies woman through his unwanted gaze!" says one. "Even if the gaze is wanted, woman reinforces patriarchal oppression by accepting it!" adds another. "Man cannot bear the burden of having the gaze put upon him!" exclaims a third. That final remark is put to the test in "Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze," which opens Friday at SOMArts.
Does this exhibition of 117 works seek payback by putting men in humiliating pornographic poses? Yes. Which is to say, that's part of it. In "Sexy Bitch," Lisolette Gilcrest photographs a chubby naked man reclining on a dance runway as a woman gives him money and puts one of his nipple-tassels in her mouth. Other artists take more abstract approaches, such as Lynne Todaro in "Stud." She draws a body-building man on a block of wood, which could be seen as an indictment of the expectation society places on men to be beefy, utilitarian, and brainless. Man-as-object indeed. Della Calfee, meanwhile, literally turns men into objects in "Man as Table" photographing two naked men embracing each other in a crouch while supporting a glass tabletop.
Friday's reception includes a performance by Chanel Matsunami Govreau called "Hapa Bruthas," an exploration of male sexuality, brotherhood, and how interracial dating affects Asian American communities. Later in the exhibit is a "peep-show drawing circle" as well as a panel discussion and the feminist film Fuses by Carolee Schneemann.
The opening reception for "Man as Object" starts at 6 p.m. at SOMArts, 934 Brannan (at Eighth St.), S.F. Admission is free.