So I've become aware of the artist Laurel Nakadate, read an article in Modern Painters and watched an interview featuring the works which put her on the map. (You can and should visit her website http://www.nakadate.net/.) A video artist who finished her grad work at Yale, Nakadate focuses her lens on random encounters with men. These men are not models, are not hot or chic, are often grotesque; they are the men one might find sitting alone at a mall, men populating craigslist, men ostracized by magazine culture and popular body-image into the fringe where they anonymously rot, the American men that are just lonely enough to participate in Nakadate's work. In short: Nakadate is slumming. A minimal (collaborative, she suggests) choreography allows the "date" to become its own thing, a spontaneous experience. One finds her dancing out some B. Spears tunes or spinning a man like a demented puppet while lasciviously cocking a hip with a curious non-expression on her face, an expression she might wear while reading Derrida.
In my efforts to understand the modern artist, the Modern Artist, from Hirst to Zhang to Koons or Kruger, I wandered into Ms. Nakadate's work with an open mind. As a man, as an everyman, I allowed a fascination with her ultra-sexy self-representation, her elevated sense of undergarment fashion, her salacious movements. But a self-consciousness surged and I swear Barbara Kruger yelled at me from a banner painting somewhere. Am I the guy dancing to “oops” by Spears on some level? Probably. And am I conflicted about that? Probably. Am I part of a youjizz culture? Probably. I am an element of the culture currently reclaiming fast sexuality, which will ebb and flow with the on the tiding myths of taboo and morality (the struggle of animalism versus intellectuallism). But Ms. Nakadate is not lewd, rather she is shrewd, an observant exotic dancer, an exhibitionist vixen, a narcissus, an false sexpot, a siren damning sailors against her shores. She is a snowglobe handicraft of our oedipal society. She is a beautiful echo, albeit in a direct gender reversal, of de Kooning's Women of the late 50's and the early 60's door paintings. She is the anti-argument to R. Prince's nurse paintings, which are much less cruel (in my male-centric opinion), her femininity equal in power to Prince's masculinity. Her art is an angst-driven frame-flip from Gauguin's Tahitian goddesses (and consequential death by syphillis), Ingres' Odalisque, even the demi-erotic representation of Biblical females in Renaissance imagery (Caravaggio, Titian, Michelangelo). . . there is little new here in terms of art and Humanity, just a simple reduction of the Male to a castrated gaping mouth that some women adore. She has taken de Kooning's horror-sluts into new domains and gender-reversed the anger with great alacrity, she has lined up a few guys in a comic book store with some masks and underwear and cobra-charmed them into les desmoilles d'avignon, les hommes d'avignon. And it is simultaneously a true and false representation, like mass media sexuality, like pop music, like line dancing, like this essay, like all art.