Will Boys Be Boys?: Questioning Adolescent Masculinity in Contemporary Art

  • Work by Ryan Humphrey in Will Boys Be Boys? Installation view at the Salina Art Center, 2004.

  • Collier Schorr, Dan (After a Match), 1999.

  • Ryan Humphrey, Great Days, 2003. Courtesy Caren Golden Fine Art, New York.

  • Will Boys Be Boys? installation view, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, 2005. Photo by David Menard.

  • Will Boys Be Boys? installation view, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2006-07. Photo by David Menard.

  • Will Boys Be Boys? installation view, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, 2005. Photo by David Menard.

Curated by Shamim M. Momin

The fascination with youth that dominates the fields of media and entertainment has shown up increasingly in recent contemporary art. Examining the nature of adolescent masculinity in art from the past five years, Will Boys Be Boys? brings together works by nineteen nationally recognized contemporary artists or artist teams, ranging from paintings, photographs, and sculptures to installation pieces and video works. The artists explore the notion of the adolescent male, the “boy,” as a socially determined type, in terms of his physical appearance—clothing, hairstyle, and accessories—as well as his pastimes and behaviors. Aware of post-feminist ideas about the complex fluidity of gender and identity that have emerged over the last few decades, these artists treat the subject of male adolescence with deliberate ambiguity, manifested as a mixture of celebration, critique, imitation, and desire. Male adolescence is seen as a multivalent condition: sometimes androgynous, even feminine in some respects; both arrogant and vulnerable; alternating at times between threatening menace and exuberant innocence.

One group of works addresses the gender-specific rituals and activities of male youth; Tim Gardner’s meticulous, photo-realist watercolors of his brother’s friends engaged in activities typical of suburban middle-class college students. A second section focusing on “image” includes the photographs of Nikki S. Lee, who exposes the surprisingly fluid boundaries of identity and appearance among a clique of young male skaters. The third group explores the symbols and objects with which adolescent males are associated, a theme evoked by Luis Gispert in his abstract sculptures inspired by contemporary youth culture’s material fetishization of fast cars and hip-hop music.



Shamim M. Momin

Shamim M. Momin is the Director, Curator, and co-founder of LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division), a non-profit public art organization committed to curating site- and situation-specific contemporary art projects in Los Angeles and beyond. LAND was founded in 2009 and has since presented over sixty discreet exhibitions and programs with contemporary artists. Momin’s most recent large-scale projects include The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project (2013-2015): a series of artist-produced billboards and activations that will unfold along Interstate 10 Freeway from Florida to California; Wildflowering L.A. (2013-2014), a native wildflower seed planting initiative throughout Los Angeles County by artist Fritz Haeg; Painting in Place (2013), a group exhibition of contemporary painting presented in the historic Farmers and Merchants Bank in Downtown Los Angeles; Perpetual Conceptual: Echoes of Eugenia Butler (2012), an exhibition about Eugenia Butler Gallery as part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980; and Nothing Beside Remains (2011-2012), a multi-site, multi-artist exhibition in Marfa, TX. 

Previous to founding LAND, Momin was Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art where she co-curated both the 2008 and 2004 Whitney Biennial exhibitions, as well as numerous solo exhibitions. As Branch Director and Curator of the former Whitney Museum at Altria, she was responsible for organizing exhibitions and commissioning more than fifty new projects by emerging artists for both solo and thematic presentations.

Photo courtesy of Ramona Rosales


touring schedule

Indianapolis Museum of Art
Indianapolis, IN, United States
October 22, 2006 - January 14, 2007

Gulf Coast Museum of Art
Largo, FL, United States
May 12, 2006 - July 2, 2006

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, United States
November 5, 2005 - January 8, 2006

Museum of Contemporary Art
Denver, CO, United States
February 18, 2005 - April 17, 2005

Salina Art Center
Salina, KS, United States
November 20, 2004 - January 29, 2005

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