Sport as an entrance to exploring male relationships, is the theme in this recent body of work by Abel Baker Gutierrez. Following in the tradition of Thomas Eakins who painted men in the midst of much physical contact via wrestling, along with the solitude of men rowing, Gutierrez looks at the relationships of young men through the visage of water, rowing and rescue. Like the photographer Tad Beck, Gutierrez uses Eakins work as a jumping point to further view the depths of the mysteries of young men, where in a kind of watery solitude a subtle sexuality is revealed. Boys at just that age of transitioning into manhood quietly submerge and float in an anonymous body of water. Legs sticking up and out of water symbolize the topsy-turvy time of transition of these boy-men. A boat just under water lies quietly suspended while shut eyed figures float in and around, ambiguously adrift. In other pieces, one boy-man seemingly rescues another by giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; both figures are strangely mute, yet a variety of emotions are signaled, such as comfort, intimacy and shared solitude. These scenes are surprisingly quiet; often it is what these images are not about that is interesting. A visual of an almost drowned figure could be filled with wild emotions and yet these are still, silent and soft. The boy-men all look alike and this repetition creates a mirroring effect so that it feels as though one has rescued himself. In another piece a body swims underwater, the figure is elusive, abstract and mysterious. What is beneath is only hinted at, yet we recognize it for what it is. It is this fleeting glimpse of the familiar that is not fully revealed, which represents the unknown territory of youth into manhood.
The show runs through August 27 at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.