Steve Locke, there is no one left to blame, 2005-2013. Oil and collage on wooden panel; metal poles and collage on wooden base. 70 1/2 × 30 × 22 inches (179.1 × 76.2 × 55.9 cm). Gift of the artist, YOURS MINE & OURS Gallery, New York, and Samsøñ, Boston. Courtesy the artist, 2013. © Steve Locke
Steve Locke’s practice spans painting, drawing, photography, and installation and explores ambivalent relationships between masculinity, homosexuality, and public memory. His work also acknowledges contemporary anxieties around terrorism, war, and torture, themes which grounded his 2013 solo exhibition at the ICA, Steve Locke: there is no one left to blame. The titular work of that exhibition, represented here, exemplifies how Locke challenges the authority and power typically endowed to painting and portraiture.
For more than a decade, Locke has explore ideas of the gaze and modes of looking exchanged between and among men. For this work, he returned to his long-standing practice of painting men’s faces with their tongues hanging out of their open mouths. These faces often float disembodied within the canvas; their enigmatic expressions suggest disgust or dislike as much as they do teasing or flirting. Rather than displaying the painting in a traditional manner, Locke uses a painted wood panel affixed to a sculptural support to anchor There is no one left to blame directly on the floor, bringing the portrait off of the wall and into the space of the gallery, inviting engagement and interaction. This gesture draws the viewer into a direct relationship to the work, interrogating the conventions, experience, and representational limits of contemporary portraiture.