The Nature of Man explores Harold Stevenson’s investigation of masculinity from his early career in the 1960s to more recent works from the 1990s. The male body in Stevenson’s works represents variously an expression of eroticism or memory or a reference to art history. For example, Bandits is based on an old photograph, while Don’s Landscape is a tribute to a family member and his love of nature. In other works, Stevenson associates the contours of the body with the topography of landscape or the lines of an ancient vase to suggest the inherent beauty of the human form.
Stevenson was born in Idabel in 1929 and briefly studied at the University of Oklahoma before leaving for New York City in 1949. Largely self-taught, he entered the circle of Alexander Iolas and the Hugo Gallery shortly after his arrival in the city. Iolas introduced him to notable artists and patrons but also to another aspiring artist – Andy Warhol. Stevenson’s work focused on naturalistic yet simplified depictions of the human body and frequently used a monumental scale and unconventional or unusual perspectives. This approach challenged the critical supremacy of non-objective abstraction in the 1950s, making Stevenson’s work retardataire by some standards and subversive by others. He frequently exhibited alongside the Pop artists, including the 1962 landmark show at the Sidney Janis Gallery, The New Realists.
As Stevenson’s career matured, he became increasingly interested in representations of the ideal male anatomy in Greek vases and Roman sculpture and, by the 1980s, the nude dominated his work. His series, The Companions of Alexander, uses the style of Athenian vase painting to depict imagined portraits of Alexander’s male escorts. Drawing upon art history, Stevenson explored how the representation of eroticism and sexuality in Greek culture has informed contemporary definitions.
Ross Dugan, Jr., a personal friend of Stevenson’s, donated his extensive collection in 2013.
Because of the nature of the exhibition, it may not be suitable for viewers of all ages.
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