Wet Dreams

Robert Flynt's first New York solo show in four years could not be better timed. It coincides with, and neatly complements, David Deitcher's current ICP Midtown show of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cartes de visite, and other source material for his book Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together 1840-1918, which includes turn-of-the-century images from Flynt's collection. For some time now, Flynt has been rephotographing exactly these sorts of vintage studio portraits and combining them with his own photographs of male nudes to create suggestively layered pictures full of mystery and sensuous interplay. In a sense, Flynt enters these old photos of buddies embracing, snuggling, or simply holding hands in order to bring their repressed eroticism to life. The results are contemporary spirit pictures teeming with sexy, often mischievous ghosts.

Flynt's new work also includes large, unframed photos of men onto whose nude bodies he's projected anatomical diagrams or found photos of classical statuary, wrestlers, or young swimmers engaged in life-saving maneuvers. Printed in pale yellowish and tan monochromes, as if faded with age, these pictures use the male body as a screen for idealized and antique images—masculine straitjackets and inspirations—that the flesh-and-blood models either elude or adapt to.

Details

Robert Flynt
Wessel + O'Connor Gallery
242 West 26th Street
Through May 6

Flynt's big pieces have iconic power, but his smaller pictures incorporating vintage portraits—collected in a handsome self-published book called [Your] Numbered Days—are more psychologically acute and provocative. Maybe that's because the naked wraiths cavorting in them appear to be the unconscious projections of their 19th-century sitters. The red-tinted, transparent bodies of two wrestlers grappling on the floor before one formally posed pair of men are surely an ectoplasmic manifestation of pent-up desire. In other photos, the spectral nude seems to emanate from the buttoned-up body, perhaps as a result of his partner's wishful thinking. Because most of Flynt's contemporary models were photographed underwater, they float into these stuffy interiors like visions, making them places where erotic dreams come true.

 
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