Making Fun of Manliness

Contender, by Type A

At Contemporary Arts Forum, through April

New York artists Adam Ames and Adam Bordwin are men’s men. They
drink beer. They spit. They compete against each other in physical
contests. Or at least that’s what you’ll see in Contender, their
multimedia exhibit at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts

The world-renowned duo, known collectively as Type A, have been
exploring ideas of masculinity, machismo, and the aggressive,
competitive qualities that define straight men’s behavior since
their first collaboration in 1998. Their video Mead (2003) depicts
three men drinking beer, feeding a fire, and belching
competitively, and 4 Urban Contests (1998) features a pissing

Their later work approaches the same theme with more depth,
complexity, and subtlety. “Prize (Folly)” (2005) is an aluminum
sculpture of a broken athletic cup the size of a dinner table,
depicting not only the strength we associate with manliness, but
also the inherent fragility of men — and stereotypes of them. A set
of photos — “Stand (Height),” “Stand (Weight),” and “Stand
(Lean)” — explores how men compete and compensate for their

The exhibit’s standouts are “Push” (2004), a series of panels on
which Ames and Bordwin shoved each other and then recorded where
they landed in meticulous detail; “Ours/Theirs” (2004), a video
installation and photo still in which the duo designate a new prime
meridian in Greenwich, England, with a line of duct tape; and a set
of needlepoint pieces that mimic the art of redneck bumper stickers
in vernacular (“My Other Ride Is Your Mom” and “Don’t Like My
Driving? Call 1-800-Eat-Shit”) and symbolism (bold colors, simple

The whimsical, yet mathematical “Push” acts as a record of
aggression and its consequences. At the same time it’s a record of
cooperation — both Ames and Bordwin allowed themselves to be
pushed, agreed to detail their steps, and even unconsciously
conspired with the other’s aesthetic vision (one piece looks like a
comet, while another has a moat of blank space between two flares
of footprints). “Ours/Theirs” is a great example of the way men
mark territory and forge connections by rebelling. It’s also a
great joke. The needlepoint work asks us that we consider both
masculine and feminine stereotypes, and what we consider art.

Taken alone, however, these elements are just one-line jokes,
crude conceptual videos, and OCD-driven exercises — entertaining in
their own right, but also obvious and banal. Together as Contender,
though, the works are an irreverent, thought-provoking, and
accessible exploration of what it means to be a capital-M man.

Contender, along with David Florimbi’s exhibit Real Estate,
shows through April 7 at the Contemporary Arts Forum, upstairs from
the Paseo Nuevo Mall. Call 966-5373 or visit


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.