Apron Strings

Although he no longer lives at home, photographer Peter Monroe includes himself in the deadpan documentary series he calls "Mama's Boy!," now at OK Harris (383 West Broadway, through February 6). All the other photos are of grown men who live with their mothers, often in their childhood rooms, but even if Monroe, 45, lives alone in Park Slope these days, he can relate. After all, as he notes in the text that accompanies his own photo (he's the one with long hair and bib overalls), he lived with his mother on Long Island well into his twenties.

That doesn't make him particularly sympathetic to guys who remain at home in their fifties, most of whom are buddies or acquaintances; he regards them, their mothers, and their unfortunate choices in living room furnishings with a decidedly cold, if merrily amused, eye. (It's no surprise that his previous subject was the Coney Island sideshow.) "It seems as if I'm interested in people with this series," Monroe writes. "That isn't the case." He insists his interest is purely compositional, but he did listen when his subjects talked, and his terse descriptions of their circumstances are an essential and frequently hilarious part of the project.

"He told me to get all dressed up, and look at him!" one mother says of her 56-year-old son in scuffed sneakers; a former college professor, he's back sleeping in a room still decorated with his high school team pennants. "My life is a nightmare," another guy told Monroe, who arrived to find mother and son feuding, and goes on to list other pertinent data: "Why he lives with his mother: He keeps getting fired from jobs. Girlfried or sex? Not since 1983." The photo, of the two combatants seated at opposite ends of a tufted velour sofa, was taken in the summer of 1995; one week later, the mother sold the couch and moved to Miami Beach, leaving her son alone in Sheepshead Bay without much furniture. That Monroe, who admits he hasn't had a girlfriend or sex since 1993, counts himself among this sad brotherhood is perhaps his most generous gesture here.

 
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