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Thursday, December 14, 2006

IT'S ART! IT'S PORN! EVERYBODY'S HAPPY! — THE BEAVER SHOT AS ART

There's a new show running at Manhattan's Gagosian Gallery through December 22 featuring the work of painter John Currin, and it's garnering a bit attention thanks to some of its subject matter. Nudity in the arts is certainly nothing new, nor is sexually explicit imagery, but it's bound to cause a stir in these hypocritically puritanical times when someone walks into a gallery and finds what can be construed as beaver shots hung on the wall in all their gynecological glory. Currin's "Rotterdam" (2006) is such a work, and when first encountered it exudes the ambience common to the photography in such periodicals as HUSTLER, PINK PARADE, and OPEN WIDE, but upon closer observation the piece is far less off-putting for the casual viewer than the you-can-see-her-lunch nudie mag aesthetic.


"Rotterdam" (2006)

The composition is common to erotic art; two lovers entwined, engaged in intimate contact on a large, comfy bed, both appearing to be enjoying each other. What is uncommon about the piece is the — excuse the term — in your face focus given to the figures' genitalia, and while good, old-fashioned osh-osh has been depicted in art a gazillion times since the day a horny caveman first fashioned one of those goddesses with the huge tits and Cro-Magnon badunkadunk, it's unusual to witness such frank presentation for general consumption.

The "window dressing" present is straight out of the ABC's of porno: sexy stockings and garter belt, lace gloves, ankle jewelry, "fuck me" pumps, a necklace with a dangling bauble that accentuates the female's naked flesh, sleepy/ecstatic facial expression that passes for what was once known as "swooning." It's all there, but the imagery does not strike me as pornographic for a number of reasons. The painterly medium lends the graphic tableau a level of "class" and legitimacy that few allegedly-pornographic works can muster, and the setting brings to mind (for me, at least) some old world boudoir that I could picture Marie Antoinette getting Rodgered in, and I have to admit that I find that appealing. Also, considering the obvious X-rated influence, it's interesting to note that the figures are those of ordinary people, and not the beefed-up-by-silicone and fire-hose-bedicked replicants that populate the majority of adult entertainment, and their simple commonness makes them quite charming.

So let's move on to the real issue at hand, namely the Johnson and the 'Giney. Human genitalia depicted in the act that it was intended for is seldom seen from this angle in highbrow paintings, and while the anatomical details leave nothing to the imagination there is no display of the effluvium that accompanies the deployment of one's naughty bits (although the guy's nuts do look a bit greasy), or the cooking oil that porn ingénues liberally apply to their havens in order to simulate the visible signs of female arousal. And while the guy's squashing of his stuff (an action that inflates his unit via a technique familiar to anyone who's seen a Ron Jeremy vehicle in the past ten years) draws your attention to its turgid veininess, that's merely a component to the connection about to be made; if you are a guy who has ever been fortunate enough to have a woman share her body with you, especially with absolute certainty that there is no chance of either unwanted pregnancy or STD's, nothing feels better than your manroot happily ensconced in the lady's Good Place, and with that knowledge in mind you can relate to the dude in the painting. The guy is straining to get inside his obviously willing companion and feel her moist, enveloping heat, and she's applying just enough pull to herself to open up and accommodate that friendly member, a subtle gesture made plain by our gaze being directed with the visual aid of her lace-covered digits. The glimpse that we are afforded of her pink taste treat only gives us enough to register it as the welcome and familiar source of all things wondrous, not the sometimes painfully splayed luncheon meat vista found in most one-handed amusement mags/videos, a sight that turns the divine vulgar.

And speaking of divine, the contours of the woman's body have just the right gravity and roundness, without the cartoonish exaggeration of the rank-and-file stroke-mag diva. Of particular interest is her pubic mound, delineated in such a way as to simultaneously register the solid structure of her pelvic bone and the softness of the tantalizing flesh surrounding it.

When people are fucking — and I mean FUCKING; that animal communication between two physical beings that completely erodes rational thought — there's an immediate urgency that cancels out everything else around you, and that feeling is conveyed here with a subtlety that belies its flash of pink 'n' pecker; these two are caught up in the primal heat of the moment, and, frankly, I like seeing that in a contemporary painting rather than some hoary old example from a coffee table compendium of erotic art. Currin's "Rotterdam" very much places me in the "now" of its visual tale and moves me with its sensuousness. It certainly beats the hell out of much of the art that I saw during my school days... If only I could have walked into a gallery and seen the excellence of Gustave Courbet's "Origine du Monde" ("The Origin of the World", 1866):



NOTE: this is the whole painting, not just a detail. Not only can I totally get with the subject, but I also love the technique; painting realistic- looking hair is a bitch and a half, and I'll be dipped in dogshit if that bush doesn't look just like the real thing. Hooray for art!!!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Think I'll buy Mom some prints for Christmas!! I could just see those framed under the tree.

Knowledge is Power said...

Random Man says

"Nice Work. Have to get to the Art Gallery more often."

"Porn is now Art, Porn Stars are now Politicians."

Dont forget "Sex is good, so bonk more often."

mark gilson said...

i'll never forget when i was in high school and a gallery in soho had an exhibition of photos of artist jeff koons and his then wife cicciolina having sex. these were straight up fuck pictures...they even looked like they were shot for an issue of hustler or something. and they were enormous, maybe 8 feet square or bigger. and here i was standing next to some old lady in front of a huge detail picture of jeff koon's tool firmly planted in his wife's anus. it was an odd moment.