Duane Michals Reveals Gay Hiddenness

THE DAILY PIC: In one of his greatest series, Michals looks at sidelong glances.


THE DAILY PIC: One more work from the permanent collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. By no coincidence at all, the piece is included in the museum’s comprehensive survey of the photos of Duane Michals, which closes in exactly one month. Shot in 1970, it is called “Chance Meeting,” and may just be the best of the photographic series that Michals pioneered. The suite lets us watch as two quite ordinary men pass each other on a side street, and in passing exchange a glance pregnant with desire. Or at least that’s the very obvious (and as it happens intended) reading that we have of the series now, especially knowing the other gay-themed images that Michals has shot. But several people who saw the series when it first came out–including Linda Benedict-Jones, the survey’s curator–have told me that they didn’t immediately get the homosexual subtext, although they could tell there was something promisingly queer, in the older sense, about the work. That means that the series itself, as a work of art, played the same game of partial signs and obfuscations that its subjects are engaging in. Right into the 1970s, homosexuality was the desire, that dared not speak its name, or declare itself fully in art. Michals’s series declares that undeclaration. (Collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Courtesy the Artist and DC Moore Gallery)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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