“The Man Box and Beyond”

Pub date May 2, 2006
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW Postfeminism — which is not the death of feminism so much as an effort to examine how culture creates gender differences in terms of how femininity and masculinity are defined — is a good place to start when thinking about the work included in "The Man Box and Beyond." The exhibition was inspired in part by an exercise from the Oakland Men’s Project, a violence-prevention program that asks men how they feel when they’re expected to "act like a man." The 15 participants in this show approach and extend this question through a range of responses from the humorous to the serious. Perhaps the most compelling response is Hand to Hand, a large, wall-mounted installation by Ehren Tool of ceramic mugs with photo-transferred imagery and text related to war. The material is culled from different sources and represents the various ways war imagery shows up in our culture. All the mugs are unique and feature skulls, gas masks, insane quotes by President George W. Bush ("I just want you to know that when we are talking about war, we’re really talking about peace"), naked women holding assault weapons, naked men in military hats holding their cocks, people with their faces blown off, children who have been disfigured by war, and on and on. The mugs also have images of the artist, a former marine, and his family members who have served in the military. By locating himself in the crosshairs of war’s absurdity, Tool critiques himself and his identity, which has been both handed down to him and constructed by others. "People need to see this stuff with their coffee," is how Tool explained his project to me. To that end, the artist has given away 6,000 mugs — some of which have been mailed unsolicited — to politicians and other people in positions of government and corporate power. Deconstructing masculinity: one mug at a time. (Katie Kurtz)

The Man Box and Beyond Through Sat/6. Wed.–Sat., 1–6 p.m.
Closing reception Sat/6, 5–7 p.m.
The Lab, 2948 16th St., SF. (415) 864-8855, www.thelab.org