The Rainbow Beneath the Black. Homoerotic Visions in Old Master Prints Maximize

The Rainbow Beneath the Black. Homoerotic Visions in Old Master Prints

Biblioteca Valenciana Nicolau Primitiu
Sala Capitular del Monasterio San Miguel de los Reyes
May 31 - September 25, 2022


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The Rainbow Beneath the Black. Homoerotic Visions in Old Master Prints offers an unprecedented look at early engravings and at the Mariano Moret Collection by investigating the mechanisms of desire and the proactive gaze, along with ways of observing and the desire to see.

The exhibition offers a journey through five centuries of homosexual desire in a collection of prints by some of the most important engravers in the history of this artistic discipline, covering a chronological arc that goes from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 19th century. Engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi, Jacopo de’Barbari, Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio, Barthel and Sebald Beham, Heinrich Aldegrever, Hieronymus Hopfer and Jan de Bisschop are juxtaposed with a careful selection of modern and contemporary works of art with the intention of showing the persistence of certain ideas and models over the centuries. These are works that introduce us to a masculine universe of prints about men, made by men for other men. To quote Juan Gil-Albert: “A labyrinth for men only”.

It is not a question of exclusively exhibiting works with a homosexual theme, which is very difficult in prints from this period, nor of solely including prints that have come from the burins of homosexual artists. The exhibition deals with the methods used to represent a sexuality that was proscribed and denied for centuries. That was considered a heinous and therefore unspeakable sin. Unthinkable and therefore unrepresentable. Not represented, only sketched. A cryptic, coded, barely expressed desire that feeds on flashes and snippets. An eye trained to identify clues, read between the lines and decipher codes. A look trained to detect other looks.

Male nudity does not seem exceptional today, but for centuries and until relatively recently, it was unusual and difficult to contemplate in a society that considered homosexuality a “socially repugnant vice, a sexual aberration, a psychological perversion and a hormonal defect”. Throughout this time, the prints that make up the exhibition served as a support for a forbidden desire and as a refuge for a proscribed gaze that was more accustomed to concealment than to representation.

Visitors to the exhibition will have to decipher the symbols that, over the centuries, have served to encode a homoeroticism that is sometimes overt, but in many cases latent. A homoeroticism that is intuited, glimpsed or imagined as a vision or a mirage provoked by desire.

Every exhibition is an exercise in observation, but, on this occasion, observation becomes voyeurism. Through the vindication of passionate contemplation, we are invited to examine the works with an impure gaze and to unravel the mystery of desire, to determine whether it lies in the hand of the artist or in the eye of the beholder.