Received Wisdom

20 Jan

Anal sex looms like a big brown star over gay male identity. Long before we come out, straight culture tells us it’s what we do and why we’re unnatural. Gay porn reinforces the former message, and once we come out other gays tend to sort us according to our presumptive “roles”: top, bottom or versatile. Even if your honest answer — one that may take awhile to get to — is none of the above, much of your hunt for your sex involves navigating a landscape littered with expectations of butt sex and advice on how best to go about it. Given the generational disconnect between younger and older gay men, received wisdom on how to bottom is one of the few traditions getting handed down. The advice I see on Internet message boards today reminds me of what my friends and sexual partners used to tell me.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Bear Down), 2013. Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Bear Down), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Bear Down), 2013. Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Bear Down), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

I don’t bottom, and my topping technique consists of closing my eyes and hoping for the best. While the fact that I’ve been able to escort indicates that I’m far from the only one, the fact remains that I’d have made a lot more money throughout my escorting career if I liked to fuck and get fucked. If someone buys one of these paintings, I’ll be making money off bottoming without actually having to do it.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Don't Douche), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Don’t Douche), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Don't Douche), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Don’t Douche), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Because the white backgrounds are coated with glass microspheres — the tiny beads that make the paint on roads reflective at night — the white text is effectively backlit under certatin lighting conditions and the background shimmers and appears satiny, whereas they appear more muted and minimalist in at other times.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (You're Tight), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (You’re Tight), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (You're Tight), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (You’re Tight), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

I got the idea of using the microbeads from Mary Corse, a Los Angeles painter who shares some perceptual concerns with the Southern California light-and-space artists. Her paintings are completely abstract and geometric, while the way I’m using the glass beads is more akin to Glenn Ligon‘s use of coal dust to created legibility issues in his text paintings, although in mine the words fall in and out of legibility depending on lighting conditions and where the viewer is. (It was about a year ago that I discovered Corse’s work in Pacific Standard Time exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Getty Museum; around the same time I saw the Ligon retrospective on its stop at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That is, the road trip that this blog documented during its first few months made this series possible.)

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Fiber), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Fiber), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, 'Received Wisdom (Fiber), 2013. Glass microspheres, enamel and acrylic on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Fiber), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, enamel and acrylic on canvas.

Similarly, how one reads the content — as funny, sad, disgusting, practical, maybe even erotic — depends on where the viewer is vis-a-vis his or her own feelings about anal sex, which is a topic that defines most straight people’s and many gay men’s views of homosexuality despite its rising popularity among heterosexuals. I wanted to make paintings in which issues of physical perception and interpretive perception intertwined, and I liked the idea of trying to make a beautiful, shimmering, seductive painting of vaguely scatological subject matter.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Friday), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Friday), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Friday), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Friday), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Although they look nothing alike the iron-on paintings on view through Saturday at Zoya Tommy Contemporary (closing reception 6-8 p.m. Wednesday – please come!), both bodies of work were created with methods that allow for both structure and deviation, for both planning and chance, for both reproduction and the handmade, for both autobiography and appropriation. Both are also informed by — and in some respects crudely mirror — my experiences as a print journalist who increasingly relies on new media to create old media. And what’s more old media than painting?

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Poppers), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Poppers), 2013 (photographed in ambient light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on gessoed panel.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom, No. 6, 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on canvas.

Devon Britt-Darby, Received Wisdom (Poppers), 2013 (photographed under direct light). Glass microspheres, acrylic and enamel on gessoed panel.

These paintings will be on view as part of ProjeXion, a three-person show with Tim Gonzalez and Alexandre Rosa opening with a reception from 6-9 p.m. Friday at Avis Frank Gallery. Come check them out. In my apartment, the changes are gradual and subtle, but we’re experimenting with lighting them to more theatrical effect for the opening.

ProjeXionfront

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