The gaze, for all its changes and all its strangeness, so often means seeing a reflection of ourselves, whether it’s staring back, or refusing to meet us eye to eye.
— Sam Moore, 2022
The gaze is a conversation. Its power in art comes from the dynamic it creates between the figure in an image who looks out at the world, and the onlooker who gazes at the canvas. This conversation is complicated by both the Male prefix that comes before the gaze here – something so often associated with ideas of power and objectification – and the queerness at the heart of Larry Stanton’s work.
Stanton’s drawings are driven by simplicity and intimacy; aiming to capture the idiosyncrasies of his subjects, something that’s echoed in the work of contemporary artists influenced by Stanton. One of his Untitled drawings on paper from the early 1980s features a man sitting in a chair, a radio on a table to his side. What’s striking about this image is Stanton’s ability to focus on the imperfections of his subject in a way that makes them feel like they aren’t flaws – the asymmetry of his eyes, the bags under one of them shaded in darker.