"Xavier Schipani: Chasing Desire" at Lora Reynolds Gallery

The artist probes the history and crisis of masculinity by placing beefy men in salacious tangles, exposed and unashamed


Installation view of What Makes a Man by Xavier Schipani

"History may never have seen another time when the idea of masculinity has been in deeper crisis," Xavier Schipani writes in the notes for his show at Lora Reynolds Gallery. In "Chasing Desire," Schipani probes the crisis and history of masculinity by enlarging men to heroic scale, casting them in classically athletic bodies, and then piling them in orgiastic knots. In a mural spanning the length of the room, humongous nude men tug on two sides of a knotted rope. Elsewhere in the space, men tug on themselves and one another.

Tucked behind a dividing wall is a three-stall bathroom, which, with all the stall doors closed, looks, maybe, purely functional. There are sinks and a mirror, three urinals to the side of the stall. But open any of the doors and inside is a bacchanal like those on the surrounding walls. Stepping into the enclosed area becomes more confronting, with men contorted in various positions seeming to proposition you directly.

This is not Schipani's first use of the bathroom as an installation setting. Recently, he collaborated with Jill Soloway and Refinery29 in participation with the media site's 29Rooms series. In his contribution, Schipani filled a bathroom with graffitied slogans and doodles, all centered on similar themes of gender, sexuality, and identity. At Lora Reynolds, Schipani's exploration of these themes and the space develops a tighter focus and more graceful coherence. The space doesn't seem gritty or unclean, but sterilized somehow despite the explicit depictions on the stalls. At a time when the bathroom has been weaponized against the queer community, this reclaiming of the vulnerable space is fantastic and effective.

Voted Best Muralist in The Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin 2016 Readers Poll, Schipani uses a mural painting technique that is confident and punchy. The mélange of flesh tones, in simple silhouetted shapes, feels at once fresh and trendy. His layered shapes, clean lines, and pools of color create and maintain visual interest as you trace limbs and faces in couplings, or throuplings, or quadrouplings, or ....

On a smaller scale and in a separate room, Schipani's portrait series, We're Still Here, features busts drawn in colored pencil and acrylic. The portraits are subtle, realistic depictions of members of the LGBTQ community from Schipani's life at his time of transitioning, people Schipani identifies as "trans-cestors." The medium is one that Schipani is perhaps less comfortable with, and timidity comes across in the work, a contrast from his boldness with mural painting. The subjects appear plaintive and placid, drawn in ghostly shades of gray-blue. An exception is Self-Portrait, which is done in color. Schipani's green eyes peer at the viewer as he looks straight ahead from an ovoid face. As an openly trans man, Schipani is clear about the personal nature of his interest in masculinity.

By drawing from literally antiquated gender norms and situating his muscle men alongside Hellenic motifs, Schipani seems to be playfully arguing that the expectations society places on gender are never static, specifically those pressures surrounding masculinity. While the present toxicity of these expectations is unignorable, Schipani presents a surreal utopia where, perhaps, the crisis of masculinity can spark a beautiful, rollicking good time.


“Xavier Schipani: Chasing Desire”

Lora Reynolds Gallery,
360 Nueces #50,
www.lorareynolds.com
Through Sept. 1

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Lora Reynolds Gallery
Seen / Soon: Jan. 19
Seen / Soon: Jan. 19
Seeing where geometry’s order meets nature’s chaos in Jason Middlebrook’s art and listening to more of Jospeh Keckler’s darkly funny arias

Jan. 19, 2018

Seen / Soon: Jan. 12
Seen / Soon: Jan. 12
Stepping into the richly crafted cartoon world of the Haas Brothers and honoring Dr. King on his day with a Poetry Open Mic

Jan. 12, 2018

More Arts Reviews
Capital T Theatre's <i>The Hunchback Variations</i> and <i>...Faustus</i>
Capital T Theatre's The Hunchback Variations and ...Faustus
The company's pairing of two Mickle Maher one-acts gets lit about art in a sublime way

Elizabeth Cobbe, Nov. 16, 2018

Mary Moody Northen Theatre's <i>Men on Boats</i>
Mary Moody Northen Theatre's Men on Boats
With a diverse cast of women playing white men exploring the Grand Canyon, this show recasts history to show guys who just don't get it

Robert Faires, Nov. 16, 2018

More by Melany Jean
MASS Gallery's
MASS Gallery's "Staycation: thresholds"
The gallery's first exhibit in its new home invites viewers into the private self and into the stretching of one's limits

Nov. 16, 2018

East Austin Studio Tour 2018: Recapping Weekend 1
East Austin Studio Tour 2018: Recapping Weekend 1
Take MoHA's selfie challenge? Bathe in the forest? Do it all!

Nov. 14, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Lora Reynolds Gallery, Xavier Schipani, Jill Soloway, Refinery29, Rooms29

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle