The Masculine Masquerade: Masculinity and Representation

A boxing ring where the corners are made from pedestals with monitors. The blue light from the monitors shine on the walls.

Installation view, The Masculine Masquerade: Masculinity and Representation, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 1995. Photo: Charles Mayer, 1995.

Hayden, Reference, & Bakalar Galleries
Featured Artists
Matthew Barney
Tina Barney
Michael Clegg
Graham Durward
Yair Martin Guttmann
Lyle Ashton Harris
Mary Kelly
Dale Kistemaker
Donald Moffett
Keith Piper
Charles Ray
Michael Yue Tong
Explore all artists who have exhibited at the List in our Artist Index.

While the subject of the feminine has been explored in depth over the past generation, until very recently its counterpart, masculinity, has been largely ignored in contemporary art exhibitions.

This thematic exhibition, presented in all three of the List Center’s galleries, explores the social construction of masculinity through the works of eleven artists, including Matthew Barney, Tina Barney, Clegg and Guttman, Graham Durward, Lyle Ashton Harris, Dale Kistemaker, Mary Kelly, Donald Moffett, Keith Piper, Charles Ray, and Michael Yue Tong, working in various media.

Western society has had an enormous investment in mainstream masculinity, typically defined as white, heterosexual, and dominant. Until recently this standard definition remained largely unexamined. As earlier studies of the construction of femininity have demonstrated, any attempt to understand the male gender also requires an acknowledgement of its social diversity and an expansion of its traditional parameters to include such important factors as race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The Masculine Masquerade seeks to examine that diversity.  

Recognizing the impossibility of encompassing such a vast subject in a single exhibition, we have structured this exhibition around specific male archetypes as a means of generating a dialogue on specific issues. Our areas of investigation include: postwar American boyhood experience, as interpreted by Dale Kistemaker; father-and-son relationship, as investigated by Michael Yue Tong; heterosexual identity and practice, as viewed by Charles Ray and Graham Durward; gay male identity, as explored by Donald Moffett; athletics as an arena of male expression, as depicted in Keith Piper’s work; male fantasy and eroticism, as seen in Matthew Barney’s video-installation; the military and issues of aggression, as explored by Mary Kelly; white-collar authority and privilege, as examined by Clegg and Gutman and Tina Barney; and the narratives of cultural difference surrounding Asian American and African American male identity, as seen in the projects of Lyle Ashton Harris and Glenn Ligon.

Catalogue with text by co-curators Helaine Posner and Andrew Perchuk, Simon Watney, Harry Brod, Steven Cohan, bell hooks, and Glenn Ligon.


This exhibition has been funded in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York and the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC.