Andrew Wilson: Torn Asunder | Jonathan Carver Moore, San Francisco

BY Emily Wilson, March 1, 2024

A grid of 42 black-and-white photographs of nude Black men takes up the main wall of Andrew Wilson’s exhibition Torn Asunder, on view through March 16. Also on view are five large black-and-white photographs, double exposures of Black men, in which ghostly, ephemeral images of the subjects show them in two slightly different positions. In one, for example, the subject sits on a stool, both facing the viewer and facing away. 

Andrew Wilson, Dom, 2013-23. Courtesy the artist and Jonathan Carver Moore

The double exposure was originally an accident – Wilson forgot to advance the film before releasing the shutter – but he noticed how the soft, dreamy look of the pictures countered stereotypes of Black men as threatening. Shot against a dark grey background, the men take introspective stances, their echoes suggesting movement, or a multiplicity of selves. The doubling also seemed to embody W.E.B. DuBois’s description of double-consciousness.

As a teenager in Oakland, CA, Wilson performed slam poetry, and in the grid of photographs, one line from his 42-line poem “Dear black boy” traces each man’s body. “You are a saint yet to be called” follows along the neck of one man whose head is bowed; “in your soft strong hands” curves along the edges of another man’s cupped palms. Lines like these underscore the tenderness of the photographs.  

Andrew Wilson, #4, 2013-2023. Courtesy the artist and Jonathan Carver Moore

The models chose their poses – in some pictures, the men look straight at the camera, and in others, off to the side. A couple of them take yoga poses. The men in Wilson’s photographs are mostly classmates of his from Ohio Wesleyan University, where he earned a BFA with a concentration in jewelry making before getting an MFA from UC Berkeley in art practice. Along the way, Wilson himself worked as a nude model, an experience he says he found liberating. These nudes, taken through a queer lens, suggest an approach that is about self-acceptance and love rather than an erotic one.