Clotilde Jiménez: The Contest
On ViewMariane Ibrahim Gallery
July 11 – August 11, 2020
Clotilde Jiménez has described his work as a “queer imagination of the memories of muscle,” drawn from his own experiences in the gym and his relationship to his once-estranged father, who was a bodybuilder and boxer. The Contest consists of several large-format mixed-media collages of these “athletes”—boxers, bodybuilders, and wrestlers rendered in charcoal and magazine clippings, accompanied by several goopy bronze head sculptures with colorful wrestling gear. The musculature of Jiménez’s figures is exaggerated but also flattened, and their genders are ambiguous. Most of them are closely-cropped figure studies, but a portion of them appear to be drawn from memory-scenes or TV broadcasts. At this intersection of memory and media, Jimenez’s figures explore moments within conventionally masculine spaces where queerness emerges within oneself.
Jiménez’s collages anticipate desire but also deflect it. They are not so charged with sex, not even really with voyeurism—they don’t give very much to you, the musculature is so loosely sketched, hinted at. The terse eroticism of his “Pose” series spells this out particularly well. The double entendre of the title “pose” might refer to wrestling poses but maybe also to “striking-a-pose.” Pose No. 5 (2019) is all anticipation, a figure undressing, red shorts pooling down around legs and an iridescent green crotch bulge. Pose No. 4 (2019) is a figure with his legs bent over his head, in plow pose; he’s stretching or maybe trying to suck his own dick. Pose No. 8 (2020) is a view down a figure’s backside, the lowest quarter occupied by buttocks and a muscular leg that extends backwards. Many of the poses are reminiscent of yoga (plow, warrior, and wheel) but maybe also they’re dancing. The cumulative effect of Jiménez's “poses” is a sense of eroticism latent in athletic action.
The images also try to upend gendered associations. Always on Guard (2019) shows a figure seated as if on a throne, legs crossed, hand cocked on hip. Symbols traditionally associated with masculinity—boxing gloves, Adidas track pants, a wrestling headguard—are mixed with symbols traditionally associated with femininity—the intricate craft of the chair, colorful flowers, even the way his legs are crossed. The image’s welding of collage and craft, hinted at in the patterned pink space behind the figure, is a similar mixing at the level of medium. And some images are more explicit in their gender bending: the figures in Pose No. 7, Pose No. 10, and Toy Puncher (all 2020) wear clothing resembling bikini tops to cover their chests, but they are rendered with a musculature and athleticism that one might more commonly associate with masculinity. These images try to render the “traditional associations” listed above as obsolete, or at the least confused.
Of course, many of these associations are racialized to begin with, and Jiménez’s figures grapple with the conventions of racial Blackness as well as gender. The figures are attuned to a system of desire that renders the muscular Black body problematically as both dangerous and desirable. One way that Jiménez reflects this quandary is the way he renders menacing or athletic poses comical. Toy Puncher is seated on a chair, boxing glove on the floor, disrobing for rest. The gender of the figure is ambiguous; the charcoal gives the musculature a rippling effect. Paper cut-outs lie on top, making it almost seem like the figure is playing dress-up. Peekaboo (2019) is a closely cropped figure in a ring, with fists up to his face, as if hiding from an opponent. The title turns something menacing and athletic into something childish, silly. Shadow Boxer (2020) features two figures in a ring. The flags across the top of the collage show bursts of color that feel like the flashes of a camera and a reminder that the world media is watching.
Some of the images appear to draw from personal history more explicitly. In The Family Tradition (2020), a figure flexes his bicep for a child to put their head on. Jiménez has described his work as autobiographical; an attempt to process memories of masculinity as gathered from his relation to his father and his culture. I imagine this as a memory of Jiménez’s; here, a chubby child, resting his chin on his father’s bicep, maybe a searing memory or a foundational image of masculinity for him. But the recollection is distorted: the eye of the person flexing their massive bicep has very delicate eyelashes and eyeliner. The way this sense of time seeps into Jiménez’s memory suggests a queerness that was always, already there.