Photographer and video artist Tad Beck splits his time between Los Angeles and rural Maine — an arrangement tailored to facilitate the hybrid inspirations for his art. A student of both lyricism and conceptualism in art history, Beck's work draws on conventions of neoclassical figure painting, in which idealized nudes harmoniously inhabit idyllic landscapes. But as a socially engaged, modern-day gay man, Beck employs this genteel aesthetic foundation in crafting complex images of the nude that reference the artistic paragon of purely appreciated physical beauty. Beck's cheeky update on the standard art-class stalking horse of the Male Gaze challenges assumptions in how we approach both art history and evolving views on human sexuality. Beck's 2010 exhibition at LACMA, Palimpsest, overtly referenced the incidentally homoerotic, sports-themed work-process photographic studies of 19th-century painter Thomas Eakins, right down to their precious silver frames. Works in Channels employ multichannel videos, which underscore the repetitiveness of quasi-scientific physiological studies, such as Eadweard Muybridge's famous motion serials. A new series of large-scale photographs of men adorning boat prows a la wooden mermaids, entitled “Figureheads,” debuts in this exhibition alongside previously unseen elements from Palimpsest, as well as two other major series, and includes photography and video installation.

Sat., Jan. 15, 5-8 p.m.; Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 15. Continues through Feb. 19, 2011

LA Weekly