the Hide/Seek show

ID_IC_MEIS_HIDE_CO_002 With all the recent controversy over the Hide/Seek show in DC, I thought I would post my own commentary on the show from before the excitement started….

I never would have thought that the problem of gayness in America could boil down to something so simple, that it could be, simply, Frank O’Hara. But Frank O’Hara stood before us as a gay man in a way that no one before him had. One painting in the show, by Alice Neel, is nothing more than Frank O’Hara’s profile as he sits alone at a table in a baggy sweater in front of some lilacs. His nose is extraordinary and rather beakish. Alice Neel called it “falconlike.” You sense, looking at the painting, that this is a man who knew who he was. Something in the straightforward nonchalance of Frank O’Hara says that he is willing to be gay in the same way that another man is willing to be a Democrat, or an Episcopalian. He isn’t putting on a show. He isn’t masking himself in layers of false identity. He isn’t engaged in the game of hide and seek any more than he has to be. He just wants to be Frank, a human being who happens to love men. Another painting in the show, “Frank O’Hara Nude with Boots” by Larry Rivers, says roughly the same thing, if with a little more attitude. In this painting, Frank is to be found staring out at us with his head cocked slightly to the side, naked, wearing boots. His penis hangs like a warning, neither explicitly erotic nor willing to be ignored. Frank’s penis is telling us, none to subtly, that he, Frank O’Hara, is a man, and that his maleness is an ineradicable function of who he is.

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