Matthew Morocco’s work is jarring. Although it is often comprised of intimate photographs of nude men, it isn’t their lack of clothing that grabs the viewer. It’s their unapologetic stares. In “Complicit,” now showing at the Gallatin Galleries, Morocco displays provocative and bold photographs that engage attendees. However, for all that the exhibit succeeds in, the art falls short of going deeper and exploring the connections between the people in the photos.
Gallatin Galleries is a small art space, which suits the exhibit well as only a handful of pictures are displayed. Despite the scarcity in numbers, each picture is interesting enough to captivate. Morocco wrote in his artist bio at the exhibit, “It may have been photography that I meant to inspect but what I found was an essence of human connectivity that extends beyond just sex and lust.” This is a goal that he both succeeded and failed in achieving with “Complicit.”
One of the more engaging photos featured an older man, perhaps in his sixties, standing upright in a lush room, with soft lighting and multiple mirrors. Lying beneath him is another subject — it may be Morocco himself, although the identity is not clear. He is younger, and holds up a small hand held mirror which reflects his eye back to the viewer. Both men are naked. However, it is the intimacy that makes this a powerful image. The viewer catches the men in a moment of privacy, but the reflection in the mirror directly engages the bystander, integrating them into the photographic world. In this way, everyone shares this private and serene moment.
Other photos similarly capture these still, simple moments. In one, two men drape themselves over a couch, one curled up on the armrest while the other stares defiantly at the camera. In another, two naked men stand intertwined, posed before a kiss. The framing and positioning of the photos is well executed, and the warm yellow lighting in most images lends a cozy ambiance.
There are no titles or descriptions for any of the photos. While some people may prefer this, it makes it harder to understand the backstories or journeys of each subject. Morocco said that his exploration into the sensuality of older men led him to deep discussions, revelations and stories about the AIDS crisis, dead lovers and the importance of life. However, audience members are left largely to their own imaginations when trying to discern the subjects’ backgrounds. These stories, obviously incredibly moving to Morocco, would have only enhanced the feeling of connection throughout the exhibit if articulated in words as well.
Overall, this exhibit was successful. While, at times, there was a lack of context and a missed connection between the artist and the viewer, the majority of the photos were beautifully shot and amazingly expressive. Morocco has a talent for capturing the intricacies in everyday life and for exposing and inviting the audience to be not just a complicit viewer, but an active participant.
“Complicit” opened Oct. 26 and is running at Gallatin Galleries through Nov. 16.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 13 print edition.
Email Lily Dolin at [email protected]