Tucked away in a labyrinthine corner of the City, the Leyden Gallery hosts a collective art show focusing on the male nude. The exhibition showcases work by members of Nude for Thought, a London-based group of gay artists who hold weekly life drawing sessions with exclusively male models. The group was partly created out of frustration with mainstream life drawing outlets, which still focus predominantly on the female body.
The standards of the artworks on display are high. Most of the exhibits are paintings and drawings, including – as one would expect – a good share of skilfully portrayed young men with athletic bodies in flattering poses. Yet Nude for Thought is a very diverse group and, next to figurative depictions of the fit and the muscular, one can also find less conventional pieces that purposely attempt to redefine male beauty by moving away from traditional canons.
Some of the artworks present alternative body types such as the middle-aged man or a couple of skinny youngsters. Other pieces have a conceptual edge, such as a couple of largely abstract paintings where nudity and masculinity are obliquely hinted at by the presence of male undergarments, or a series of portraits of men staring at mobile phones, subtly alluding to the narcissistic self-absorption encouraged by modern technology.
Other artistic media in the show include the moving image (a striking video installation showing a male body from within) and sculpture (fragmented statues of winged warriors). By posing questions about gender, sexuality and the concept of beauty, this exhibition successfully makes a case for the role of the male nude in contemporary art.