Brad MacCallum & Jacqueline Tarry
© Tim White-Sobieski - Lab Party Before They Were Beatles, 2004-2005
The Story of a Bad Boy" is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Thomas Bailey Aldrich in 1870. Although loosely based on his own childhood, it is a fictional story of a young boy's experience growing up in the Northeast of the United States. By introducing readers for the first time to a portrait of a boy in less than idealistic light, Aldrich's story is considered to be the foundation of what has come to be called the "bad boy" genre of literature. It has influenced the creation of some of the most memorable characters in storytelling from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to Dennis the Menace and Bart Simpson.
This genre of literature has gone beyond the pages of books to film and television, impacting the way we define what it means to be a boy today. There is that proverbial saying that goes, "boys will be boys"; certain rough-and-tumble behavior, naughty, adventurous and physical characteristics are what we have come to accept and expect as young masculine traits. And in no small way have these stories been influential. This exhibition takes on the same title as the novel inspired by Aldrich's desire to portray a realistic view of a boy, but in doing so, it challenges the stereotypes that this genre of literature helped define.
The works by Claire Kerr, Jiří Kolář, and Iñaki Bonillas portray old imagery of boys, but they have been reinterpreted or altered to present a contemporary point of view. These are symbolic in this exhibition as they dig into the past to create new perspectives. They invite us to deconstruct and reflect on the old and familiar and to reassess them in context of our current times.
© Anthony Goicolea
Most of the works in the exhibition portray boys in sharp contrast to the rough and tough bad-boy image that pervades current societal expectations. These are delicate young men who are charged with sensuality, perhaps suggesting a very different kind of adventure and mischief. Dandies, pansies, and twinks are some of the words that might be used, often in an unkind and unflattering tone. But in the softly rendered drawings of Elizabeth Peyton and Andy Warhol, in Paul P's paintings of boys sourced from pornographic material, in Robert Mapplethorpe's self-portrait as a transvestite or Pierre Molinier's portrait of Luciano Castelli, we see reality, boys just being boys, although not necessarily "like in the movies".
"Lest the title should mislead the reader, I hasten to assure him (her) here that I have no dark confessions to make. I call my story the story of a bad boy, partly to distinguish myself from those faultless young gentlemen who generally figure in narratives of this kind, and partly because I really was not a cherub."
— from "The Story of a Bad Boy" by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
It is worth noting a particularly special bad-boy in the exhibition, "Fish", a photograph by Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry. As part of a project to document teen homelessness in Seattle, Washington, the artists photographed and spoke to various street-urchins. In her interview, "Fish" reveals that she is actually a girl needing to pretend to be a boy to survive on the streets. It is a powerful work that brings to light so many issues and raises many questions, including those that relate to our definitions of boyhood and how that affects everyone regardless of whether one is a boy or a girl.
The works in "The Story of a Bad Boy" were selected from the r/e collection and will be exhibited at espacio artkunstarte madrid on February 27 - July 31, 2015.
with: Iñaki Bonillas
McCallum & Tarry