Featuring: John BALDESSARI Stacey BOGE Louise BOURGEOIS Nancy BROOKS BRODY Jeff BURTON Dawn CLEMENTS Chrissie CONANT Jessica CRAIG-MARTIN Leslie DILL Matthew DOLS Barbara ESS Saul FLETCHER Robert GOBER Douglas GORDON Jonathan GRASSI Jamie ISENSTEIN Jodie Vicenta JACOBSON Talia KEINAN Lisa KERESZI Toru KUWAKUBO Cary LEIBOVITZ Robert MAPPLETHORPE Tony MATELLI Marilyn MINTER Pierre MOLINIER Carlo MOLLINO Serge ONNEN Paul PFEIFFER Alessandra SANGUINETTI Laurie SIMMONS Thomas RUFF Alex TENNIGKEIT Andy WARHOL William WEGMAN John WESLEY Benji WHALEN
Curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody.
In colonial America, portrait painters priced their art not according to size of canvas or hours of work involved, but on how many of their subjectâ€™s limbs they were required to paint. A simple head and torso would cost you, but if you wanted to include limbs, the painter would inform his client, â€œitâ€™ll cost you an arm and a leg.â€ This bit of linguistic legend nicely captures the direct relation between art and body parts and, if true, suggests that the objectifying the body was present at creation in the history of â€œmodernâ€ art. In contemporary culture, arms and legs continue to be an issue, though today one is just as likely to find only arms and legs in a work of art.
Arms and legs are conditioned by gender politics. It remains true that while boys are trained to develop an instrumental view of the worldâ€”active and independentâ€”girls continue to be cultivated in â€œexpressivenessâ€ and sensitivity to others. As a result, boys move moreâ€”and move their arms and legs more. Educators have sought to counteract this imbalance by getting girls involved in sports, though it probably will take more than that. Objectification theory posits that women internalize a cultureâ€™s overall view of the body (called â€œbody shameâ€) and as a result self-objectify or view themselves as if from outside of themselves, causing dissatisfied body image. A study tested girls throwing a softball, and found that girls who self-objectify more than others do indeed â€œthrow like a girl.â€
Movement of arms and legs is also culturally contested. In Asian culture, dance primarily uses still arms and legs to frame torso and belly movement, while in the West the convention is keep the torso still and move your of arms and legs. Stylized movements more fluidly combining everyday movement and ritualized dance-related posturing is believed to have originated in Africa (the â€œcool poseâ€ or â€œthe strollâ€) (Neal, 2003). As in everything else, you have to read the code in the arms and legs.
Art may still be a media that objectifies, but today each person negotiates and positions oneself vis-Ã -vis objectification in a highly personal or culturally-contested way. The art will still cost money, but if you want some insightâ€¦.that will cost you an arm and a leg.