Lust for Erotic Life
After more than two years writing for this column, I've witnessed a tremendous growth in the arts in Miami: New galleries, better shows, a fresh breed of young local talent, exciting alternative projects, involved museums, and upcoming this year, an international art fair. But there are also other voices within our arts community with important things to say. So we would like to feature them occasionally in this space. First off: a review of a new erotic art gallery in Allapattah by artist Vivian Marthell.
-- Alfredo Triff
Decked out as a period-piece dominatrix (Queen Elizabeth hairpiece, mask, corset, riding crop, et cetera), digital artist Pili Cano explains how she and her equally eclectic partner Javier de Pison packed up their leathers, latex, and other unnameables and left New York to join us in the hot and humid South. Apart from creating art, de Pison was and continues to be the U.S.-based cultural writer for the Spanish newspaper El Pais and a contributor to other foreign papers. Mistress Cano has written scripts for feature films, and has collaborated with performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña as well as with fetish photographers such as Morrie Cramer and Charles Gatewood.
Adding another dimension to the South Florida art scene, the pair has founded Wild Seduction Gallery, dedicating the space to lowbrow, outsider, and erotic visual and performance art. The self-proclaimed "pervies" would like to raise erotic art to the level of fine art. "Erotic art has been considered a second- or even third-class art form, prescribed to underground cult status," explains Cano. Another motivating force is to support other artists like themselves. "We want to provide a prominent place for erotic and underground artists who have been neglected for too long by official cultural organizations," she says.
And so: the inaugural exhibition entitled "Art & Lust," which opened April 5, a retrospective of erotic artworks from around the world. Artists featured include such pioneers as Swiss-born H.R. Giger, best known for his designs for Ridley Scott's Alien movies; Japanese illustrator Toshio Saeki, whose torture tableaus never actually depict genitalia but rather creative places to put things like cacti; and the renowned Tom of Finland, the forerunner of gay erotica, whose works are in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Art.
Other classical-erotica giants in the show include Eric Kroll, fetish photographer with a taste for the sardonic. One image that comes to mind is a self-portrait entitled Kroll Shopping at a Sex Shop, where a lovely salesgirl seems to be showing Kroll spike heels while another female "tends to him" from within a counter display unit. Also on view, the work of pulp master Eric Stanton and his super-sexy heroines, whose sexual escapades put men in their place, usually on their knees.
A fabulous little jewel in this exhibit comes from post-porn performer, now performance and visual artist Annie Sprinkle: a collage of the cult queen's newspaper ads called My First Blue Movies. It meshes together those ever-popular live-sex-show ads that can be found in alternative publications (yeah, keep flipping to the back) or the last few pages of the sports section of any self-respecting newspaper.
Contemporary artist Lennie Mace, ballpoint-pen virtuoso, appropriates printed media and embellishes it, often putting into view what is implied in the ads. In one piece, neckwatch. if you can't see my mirror I can't see you, he takes a page from a magazine and creates a remarkable drawing that alludes to the mechanisms of time and space.
Not to be missed -- and you probably can't -- is a larger-than-life Polaroid of Ron Athey, called Solar Anus. This modern-primitive performance artist has his body tattooed, exposing images such as the title of the piece. It's part of a performance piece with the same name that has toured Slovenia and San Francisco and points between.
Wild Seduction Gallery has commissioned new work for this show by various artists and features a few locals as well, including Edouard Duval-Carrié and Charo Oquet, who are not normally viewed in this context.
As a whole the salon-style exhibition reiterates rather conventional themes associated with fetish and erotic art -- religious scenarios (Catholic schoolgirl/ Christ, devil/nun), and the slave/master and musclemen/uniforms visual. It will be exciting to see truly new work that can leave behind these standard themes and explore more modern scenarios drawn from this time and in this city. For example the impact of technology on sex, and commentary on social issues such as gender double standards, safe-sex issues, and the compromised morality of "don't ask, don't tell." In this way the consciousness of erotic art can also be expanded, which seems to be the gallery's goal.
That said, the gallery adds spice to our city's burgeoning cosmopolitan flavor and depth to Miami's cultural scene. The challenges that face Cano and de Pison in shifting the perception of erotic art go beyond the city limits, to the crossroads of art and aesthetic, art and politics, art and gender -- it would be nice if we could start shifting it from here.
The exhibit will continue through the summer, during which time the space will showcase performances and happenings by several artists, including those who have work in the show. (For those of you too faint-hearted to visit the gallery, cover your computer in a plain brown wrapper and check out the exhibition online at www.wildseduction.com.)
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