Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lari Pittman and the number 5

I enjoyed this post from Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes.  I hadn't before thought of high-fiving as "a type of code of heterosexuality."  What do you think?  Would you have read this populist content into the painting had you not know Pittman's thoughts?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about coded meanings in artworks, especially paintings, that conceal sexual identity in portraiture.  This conversation largely stems from the notoriety surrounding the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Identity in American Portraiture which was censored when it ran at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in the fall of 2010, and is now on view at the Tacoma Art Museum.  If you aren't familiar with this exhibition and incident, do familiarize yourself!


  1. Shoot, I drove through Tacoma on Spring Break. I will be in Seattle again in May, I guess I will be making a stop! That aside, I never thought about it before, but I can see how the high-five can be a male heterosexual thing, although I never thought about it that way. Girls, generally, have no problem hugging, but guys always seem weird about it. I guess the high-five is their hug.

    I can say that I have always felt weird high-fiving and am rarely the one to initiate the action...I just never thought about it formally.

    As for coded meanings in art work, I like it. It adds a puzzle element (although I am very rarely aware that I should be looking for a code until well after I have seen the work...bummer.) I can say that I think few of us would be or are surprised that it would be used as a way of concealing sexual identity in portraiture, then and now. Homosexuality is, sadly, something that has come along way but can still get you killed.

  2. I remember reading the Art Since 1945 textbook and not fully understanding the relationship between Rauschenberg and Johns. It mentioned that they were close, but the relationship described did not make sense to me. When I found out that they were romantically involved, I did not understand why the textbook only implied the relationship. If it was truly a topic they did not want to discuss, the editors should not have talked around it like they did. It was a coded discussion on homosexuality that I could not decipher.