Bathers are an omnipresent motif throughout art history. You can find more than a few on the walls of the Met, MoMa, Frick: pastels by Degas, a painting by Cezanne, etchings by Picasso and Rembrant and a handful of them splattered across the centuries here and there: Ancient Grecian pottery, Egyptian stelae, Italian frescos, you get the point. But the imagery persists outside of Art History and the museum.
One of our favorite examples is the painting Scene 8 by Bronx-based Dominican artist Monica Hernandez, @monicagreatgal. Hernandez chooses to submerge the figure nearly entirely, and decorate the scene with everyday objects, lending the image a more realistic and contemporary feel. An unkept razor, blood stained underwear, and stray hairs adhered to bar soap frame our bather. This isn’t a bunch of idyllic women washing each other in a river. This is real life and it’s not always neat and tidy. The act of cleaning—bathing—is actually kind of dirty.
Another one of our favorite bathing scenes is collected in Koak’s first solo show titled Bathers. The pieces in the show pushed the culturally ingrained idea of a bathing scene both stylistically and conceptually. Headless Bather evokes the same vantage point and foggy view of a Cezanne bathing scene but with a style completely unique to Koak’s method of drawing. Koak also founded the now-defunct Instagram account @theebather. It’s informative, full of scenes of bathers, and definitely a new source of information for us. (She’s not a New Yorker, but we’ll let it slide).
As you can imagine, there are very few bathing scenes depicting men. Lucky for us, Hernan Bas’ two bathers by a river slots into that niche with stunning acrylic washes. The two men (boys, really) exist behind a luscious grid of flesh and fauna tones that ask the viewer to consider the different layers of foreground and background. What are these men talking about? Are they friends, lovers, strangers? Where are they?
But to be honest, as much as we love the motif, our friendship just started out with a lot of joking about art while we tanned on a roof. Sunbathing… Get it?