Joe Frazer explores the constructed nature of identity, taking social definitions and significations of masculinity and subjecting them to a process of appropriation. Frazer has labelled his works ‘autobiographical surrogates,’ substitutes for his lived experience that might be thought to provide an outlet for the articulation of personal fantasy. These works are not so direct a window to Frazer’s soul, however, and yet neither are they purely performative façades screening a discrete and distanced other self. Instead, they demonstrate a nuanced awareness of the internalised pressures, desires and fears that structure the performance of selfhood, which is neither spontaneous nor externally enforced.
Frazer’s 2012 multimedia installation This ain’t no period drama features a truncated photographic self-portrait, the artist cradling an imitation medieval in place of the underpants that are dropped to his knees. The colloquial title reflects the work’s appropriation of medieval pantomimes of sexuality within a contemporary context, whilst hinting simultaneously at the complex theatrical dynamics of staging and display at work. Although attention is only drawn to the penis by its culturally defunct sheath, the naked body is paradoxically undisclosed. The face is not visible; the flesh is mute. This body stands in front of a wall of sanitised, medicinal tiles at odds with the parquet-imitation length of canvas spread before the image. The marbling of the latter is the product of a painstaking process that involves heating Irish moss over a single roll of canvas subsequently carved up and restitched. Two objects, a baseball cap and a genuine, medieval codpiece, punctuate this faux-marble arena. The former is made of cardboard, and crudely painted, its blunt, boxy shape and elongated brim evoking contemporary street-style’s often aggressive presentation of masculinity. This juxtaposition of cap and codpiece, both props of the peacocking male, represents ritualised assertions of sexuality throughout the ages.
Frazer’s Open Heart Surgery presentation concentrates on the social and sartorial codes devised by the gay community. Panels of waterproof fabric demarcate what was previously a toilet block, taking full advantage of the resonance of these spaces in gay culture. The material is bespattered with embroidered pink splashes: these, along with an oversized parade of bandanas peeking suggestively from back-pockets, evoke both intimacy and the stylised aestheticism of camp.
Joe Frazer graduated from the Royal Academy Schools with a Post Graduate Diploma in Fine Art in 2013, completing his BA in Fine Art and Art at Goldsmith’s College. He was a guest student at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt, Germany from 2008 – 2010. Solo exhibitions in 2013 include Marian Cramer Projects, Amsterdam, with Frazer’s work also appearing in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2013, Spike Island, Bristol and the ICA, London; and at Fold Gallery, London. Previous exhibitions include Boyfriend Material, 8 Egerton Garden Mews, London, 2011; The Blue Obelisk, Liang West, London and O / A Stiff Bandeau, curated by Nicholas Byrne, Tricycle Gallery, London (both 2010).