Through a series of paintings of strapping young men Rob Bondgren reveals a fixation with the male body. In “Misadventures in Candyland, 1, 2 and 3,” various stages of lusty hookups are shown. Men’s bodies are displayed in all their glory, bulging below and at different stages of undress. Throughout, there’s a juxtaposition of the happy-go-lucky alongside the insidious in the vibrant, candy-colored portraits of oversexed males. “Anderson’s Pool Party 2007” is perhaps the most vivid. Here we see various men in and around the pool, either getting it on or wearing a “come hither” look. All of Bondgren’s men are distinctly American, with handsome, chiseled faces and taught, muscular bodies. Bondgren entices us through his gorgeous depiction of men as sex gods and, at same time, shows us the dark underside of worshiping the body as an object. The most thought-provoking work is “Boy Was I Drunk.” Here four men pose next to what looks like the outline of a bright orange Humvee. There is a clear military connection, evident by the sailor hat, hint of camouflage and dog tags. Three of the men look smugly satisfied while the fourth looks away in despair. Although it’s vague, it’s clear that Bondgren is forcing us to think of sex as a symbol for the abuse of power, not unlike war. These paintings are so entertaining and seductive it’s hard to tear your eyes away. And that’s precisely the artist’s intent—to illustrate just how much of body addicts we are. (Marla Seidell)
Through September 2 at Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted.