Published by Bruno Gmunder
Reviewed by Paul Kane
The elephant in the room with regard to books of this type - essentially, homoerotic art, collections of pictures or photos - is that their primary purpose is to provide stimuli for wanking, to be 'the stuff of one-handed reading', as Clive Barker euphemistically puts it in his preface here. So let's take this as read and say further that, if your taste runs to rugged handsome men, Beaumen will most likely push all the right buttons for you. Is there anything else to say? Besides, that is, to make the idle boast that my imagined elephant is bigger, much bigger, than yours could ever be?
Well, there is the point that art, and even the greatest art, has always had an ulterior purpose or function. Consider, say, the role of the church as a patron of the arts during the Renaissance. Or consider the way in which Andrea del Castagno obtained his nickname. In Florence, artists of note were often asked to paint descriptions of murderers on the walls of buildings. Del Castagno's efforts led to so many arrests and subsequent executions that he became known as Andrea degli Impiccati; that is, Andrea of the Hanged.
And nor should one confuse purpose or motive with merit, as even Tom of Finland did when he said, 'Yes, I consider my work pornography... my motive is lower than art.' There are plenty of dud Madonnas and kitsch Jesuses, after all, whereas Tom's work - admired by Warhol, Mapplethorpe and John Waters - has sold at Christies, been much exhibited and is now pretty much iconic.
Now we come to the book under review. Beaumen contains myriad paintings by the artist known as Beau, an artist of fine gifts. The paintings have an elegant composition and much thought, too, has gone into painting the perspective from which the scene depicted is viewed. There is a narrative to some, which makes one think we are viewing them out of context: a geeky guy peeking at a handsome hunk as he soaps and showers, a pretty boy actor stripping for a Hollywood agent, the odd S/M scene. Perhaps these were originally used to accompany a story. Other paintings are portraits of lone figures: a cowboy, a hustler, a few sailors (which reminds one that the well-respected artist Charles Demuth, too, did quite a few dodgy pictures of sailors). The overall feel is hedonistic, warm, uninhibited; in a word, pagan. There's realistic detail and gritty atmosphere and the colour has a kind of glinty vibrancy, perhaps because originally these were all works ofoil on paper.
Look at the paintings in Beaumen, do, but please try not to touch. We are not in a zoo here. Imagined elephants aside, that is...
Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. Hewelcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org