In a series of rapturous new photo portraits, Marcos Rosales
transmogrifies his bound, gagged and eroticized sitters in search of an
It's all staged though. For his
second solo show at Steven Wolf Fine Arts, the multi-media artist has
constructed bondage scenes out of small magazine pictures and internet
downloads that were printed out, cut up and restaged in miniature with
added accessories. Paper clips double for chains in these dioramas.
Though everything looks very real.
"I wanted to see if I could
take very wooden or overly-staged images and give them depth and
emotion," said Rosales, "liberate them from that flat surface, actually
dive into the picture."
People who engage in bondage often
describe a sense of freedom that comes with being immobilized and
unable to alter the coming erotic event. Many report having out-of-body
experiences. Using time-lapse photography Rosales stretches, warps and
inflates the pictorial space in an attempt to externalize a sense of
release in the sitters. For an artist from Coleman, Texas, who grew up
around magical thinking, faith healers and other spiritual eccentrics,
contriving these photos was kin to conjuring spirits with a voodoo
"Bondage is a way that many people test their limits,
experience psychological liberation and at times out-of-body
experiences," said Rosales. "I wanted to take photographs capturing
their psychological or even spiritual transformations."
From vernacular renditions of early Christian martyrs to Chris Burden's 1971 Transfixed and Martin Scorsese's 1985 Last Temptation,
the tradition of aestheticizing ecstatic moments is rich in western
culture and Rosales' photos are deeply engaged with it. They feel both
of-the-moment and historically informed--the lush Spanish Baroque
atmosphere a response to the call of Robert Mapplethorpe's stark,
neoclassical S&M pictures of the eighties.
comparison will be made to the work of Nobuyushi Araki, whose photos of
bound girls in banal settings dominate the world of bondage
photography, and James Casebere, whose elaborate, watery worlds made
from minitaure sets play upon our superstition about the presence of
real life in photography. But the noirish atmosphere and foregrounding
of the grotesque seems more of a piece with the performances of L.A.
artists Bob Flanagan, the photos and videos of Paul McCarthy, and the
inscrutable characters in Dennis Cooper novels, who joylessly leap into
bottomless erotic worlds often without knowing why.
"To George it looked like a game," writes Cooper in his 1986 short story Wrong.
"Whether it wound up that way or not was beside the point. Handcuffs
clicked shut in the small of his back. Electrical tape sealed his lips.
Black leather shorts made him feel sort of animalesque."
Rosales' photos feel like scenes from a larger narrative, it's not just
because of the cinematic residue from the time lapse, but because his
work is a continuous tapestry. As he moves from performance to
sculpture to painting to video the visual and psychological connections
are unmistakable. This is probably a result of having staged his
biography at the center of his practice since early in his career.
Beginning with the rewriting of a letter penned by his birth mother to
the organization handling his adoption, Rosales has been rewriting his
own personal myth through his work. When he discovered that letter as
an adult, portions were elided with scrawling black rectangular marks
and these dark absences became his signature mark. They appear as text
in his twitchy black and white drawings, go Freudian and symbolize
feces and snakes in one animated video, and form the essential
structure in his best known work, elaborate architectural spider webs
of kinky black macramé.
To see the artist literally tie
these forms to yet another body of work, extend their meaning into a
new realm and deepen for himself the relationship between artistic
mediums is to catch him in the act of not just constructing a career
but himself as well.