“In his new show - The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! - Perry demonstrates with great finesse the spectrum of masculinity and excels in making art which attracts the general public”
As we travel into the New Year, our heads at Uncollective are full of ambition, hope and a good measure of nervous energy. We think that this short essay by Rosa Stevens is a perfect debut for Pint For A Piece; a thoughtful reflection on what masculinity, popularity and class might mean for artists in 2018 - Tom (Editor, Pint For A Piece)
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! is an exhibition designed to question your beliefs of masculinity and gender. The large frilly pink motorbike pokes fun at the traditionally macho view of motorcycles and what that tells us about expectations of men. Perry wants us to look at the object through a new lens, one that isn’t gendered or altered by societal norms, but rather to just see a vehicle or a piece of art. Arguably, Perry’s specific choice in the medium of his work is one of their most successful aspects, as working in pottery allows him to use size and organic shape whilst also making a statement about the type of work you might expect to see.
Perry has a way of addressing the stereotypes of masculinity by focusing on their hypocrisy. His piece Object in Foreground (2016) shows the hypocrisy of London’s investment bankers. The phallic shaped statuette is Perry’s way of calling out their macho-corporate world by ultimately concluding that it is all down to the very dated views on the role of men and importance of masculinity. Perry uses a grey and neutral colour scheme to show how men are often encouraged to shy away from bright colours as these are seen as too ‘feminine’. Perry couldn’t be making a bolder statement by exhibiting Object in Foreground with the highly decorated and ‘feminine’ motorbike.
However, although Perry’s work generally presents a very critical view of ideas of masculinity, he also does consider a more empathetic side. Unusually his work doesn’t just tackle masculine ideals in the ‘upper classes’. His piece Death of a Working Hero (2016) tackles the often-oppressive hyper-masculine ideals which can be prevalent for working class men. Perry’s use of imagery (like training weights or a boxer) shows how men can feel pressure to be physically larger and stronger than their peers. In juxtaposition to this, Perry shows family members grouped around a coffin, which arguably shows how masculine traits are essentially meaningless when the end comes. This aspect of masculine ideals for working class men is particularly poignant due to increasing rates of male suicides and the loss of many jobs during (and since) the recession of 2008. Now more than ever it seems we need artists like Grayson Perry to not only highlight the pressure many men feel to conform to masculine ideals, but also to show through art work the great diversity in what a man can be.
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! Is now closed to the public, but you can Watch Grayson Perry’s interview with Arnolfini HERE, and follow him on Twitter @Alan_Measles.
If you have any more questions or concerns about Men’s Mental Health, visit CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Rosa Stevens is a History student at the University of Bristol. She’s also an artist (@rosaleonoraart) and a poet (@rosastevenspoetry).
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