Australia-based Cherry Hoods portraits of adolescent boys have rocked the art world with their large-scale presence and sexuality. Her oversized oil and watercolour paintings exploit theories of the gaze and desire. The images are even more devastating when hung in large groups. The extensive repetition of the faces is quite chilling.
Hood paints her subjects from photographs of male and female children and adolescents. Like the Eves in a science fiction movie, they all share one name: brüder, or brother. Each is treated to the same painterly effects thin, runny washes of ochre and crimson. The only untreated white paper is in the eyes, causing them to protrude even more. Like all good portraiture, the pupils appear to follow the viewer.
Described as the coy blonde boys of true romance, Hoods subjects might also be seen as schoolyard bullies on School Photo Day scrubbed almost raw. The images were taken from snapshots, sometimes composites, sometimes even female faces envisioned as male, and painted without any trace of makeup. We rarely are exposed at such close range to large-scale images of faces that have not been doctored by digital photography, makeup or other enhancement. None of the faces exhibit blemishes, chicken pox scars or even obvious freckles. They are so clearly from the same gene pool they may as well be aliens, and this sense of nudity may account for the manner in which the subjects come across as emotionally isolated or affectively disinterested.
Yet the absolutely raw and peeled-back sense of adolescence is paramount. The paintings are brawny metaphors for puberty and all its confusions of self-doubt, bewildering lust and hormonal surges. Hoods subjects appear more confused than defiant; more inwardly fragile than corrupt. It is this rapturous, tenuous sense of innocence that has beguiled and thrilled critics and collectors on several continents.