When viewing Doyle’s new body of work, a sense of uncomfortable contrast descends like a pall. Limpid symbols of masculinity drape over their pedestals, while empirical rulers and measuring devices loom above in their exacting forms. Here, Doyle addresses how hegemony—a figurative yardstick/blueprint of how a man is supposed to behave—casts aspersions on more unconventional and alternative means of being and contributes to creating a culture steeped in toxic masculinity.
Noted for his previous work's wry sense of humor and insight, Soft Arrest represents tightening of Doyle’s political discourse. Unsurprisingly, given our particular cultural climate, this should come as no surprise. Through movements such as #MeToo, men—and the masculine ideal—are being held to account and judged for transgressions and trespasses. Doyle’s painted and sculpted excoriations are both timely and immediate, offering an insight into a productive male response. Perhaps, he seems to propose, there’s a way out of this mess. "As a man, it seems like exemplary models of love and compassion are considered exceptions and not rules,” he explains. "Alternate masculinities are seen as being weak."
The exacting frame of maleness is represented throughout the space by a series of handmade instruments devised to regulate and measure. Oversized rulers, made of painted canvas, sit alongside a giant wooden yardstick, an austere large-scale metal quick square and a mechanical pair of compasses. Here are the objects that define scale and measurement to which we should adhere. Here stands a new Charles Atlas, proposing that boys become men through shows of strength and ferocity. Enlarged canvas and steel mousetraps on the walls tell us, this is a trap.
Objects through the space offer cautionary tales of following through on masculine ideals, and show possible glimpses of strength redefined. A hobby horse, metallic and rigid is softened by it’s resplendent locks weaved in wool. This symbol of nascent rugged individualism has been tamed—not broken—by a flowering of individual thought and action. Less optimistic, are the unwavering symbols of masculinity that are rendered useless through their determination. A boot sits distorted, as if viewed through a funfair mirror. A pair of boxing gloves—literal symbols of power—are no longer effective and lie limp and divorced of their perceived strength.
Raised in California, square in the shadow of John Wayne and the Hollywood sign, Doyle relates a recent excursion to The Metropolitan Museum's David Hockney retrospective. “It reminded me of people back home. I felt the joy of his experiences, the compassion for his subjects, and an understanding that these moments so gloriously captured with love were fleeting.” With Soft Arrest Doyle puts this thinking into action, and posits that strength is independent from force. "It takes bravery to love, and even more to let it go,” he says. "Only a coward would withhold it.”
Nick Doyle (b. 1983 Los Angeles, CA) received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from CUNY Hunter College. He also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME in 2014 and was a resident of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace Program from 2014 - 17. Recent exhibitions include Life Lessons, Abrons Art Center, Lucien Terras, Invisible Exports, Pioneer Works, New York, NY; and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY. This exhibition will be Doyle’s first with Mrs.
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