Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Where’s the sex in our art?

Marcel Duchamp said: “Everything can be based on an erotic climate without too much trouble. I believe in eroticism a lot, because it’s truly a rather widespread thing throughout the world, a thing that everyone understands. It’s really a way to bring out in the daylight things that are constantly hidden … because of the Catholic religion, because of social rules. To be able to reveal them, and to place them at everyone’s disposal – I think this is important because it’s the basis of everything, and no one talks about it … If eroticism is used as a principal basis, a principal end, then it takes the form of an ‘ism,’ in the sense of a school.” (interview with Pierre Cabanne, 1967)

So Duchamp, considered a Dadaist, a Cubist, a Surrealist, ended his career as an Eroticist. Interesting. Duchamp, arguably the crucial figure in shaping contemporary art, said that Eroticism is a school of art that can and should supercede all others. Yet it barely seems to exist if you look at what’s shown in most Indianapolis museums and galleries. This is probably out of fear of scandal and out of fear of not selling anything. The audience for overtly graphic erotic art is limited here, for sure. I don’t blame people for being put off by uninteresting in-your-face pictures of private parts or of people having sex. That stuff is often boring – relying too much on shock value – and can be troublesome to display at home above the mantelpiece.

But, what Duchamp and many of the other Surrealists made, what I think really works, is art with an underlying climate of Eroticism. Where latent sexual symbols, colors, shapes, even titles honor what might be the most important thing in life: Desire.

For perfect examples, maybe the best ever, of what I'm talking about, check out the collages of Max Ernst here .

Locally, exceptions to the rule were found a few times in 2005 at iMOCA, the Flux Space, Penumbra, and Ruschman (especially the Paul Harris show). Have I missed others? Let me know.

Sigmund Freud thought people were constantly preoccupied with sex. He thought just about everything in life and dreams served as a sexual symbol. Maybe. Maybe not. But, when you consider how much content in everyday conversation, on the internet, in spam emails, in movies, TV and literature centers on sex, it’s odd and sad that the visual arts – especially in this city – feel so disproportionately Rated G.

6 Responses to “Where’s the sex in our art?”

Anonymous said...
December 27, 2005 at 12:15 PM

Well....maybe....but sex is overdone it seems to me. Everything is marketed with "sex appeal" anymore. I'm get tired of having it crammed down my throat.

Anonymous said...
December 27, 2005 at 12:29 PM

I feel that art in general should at least try and be above the bullshit selling points of spam email and hollywood. it may be for the wrong reasons that this city doesn't have large amounts of erotic art on display, and by no means should artists shy away from the topics of sex and desire... however, I do not mourn the seeming void of erotic art in indianapolis.

Anonymous said...
December 27, 2005 at 12:48 PM

in 1967 there wasn't as much sexual content in everyday conversation, movies, TV and literature. at that time it was much more relevant and important than it is now. erotic art in general, though, could use a good dose of fresh thinking and exposure. the drone of shock has lowered the appeal of the form for myself and many others.

Anonymous said...
December 27, 2005 at 6:04 PM

I totally agree with the above comments. Thank you Duchamp. Thank you Ernst. Thank you to all of the Surrealists. But as 2006 approaches, it's time to move on.

Redvelvetto said...
December 27, 2005 at 6:52 PM

I feel there is a big difference between sex and eroticsim. Modern art has taken porn and made it art at times but that does not make porn erotic and certainly, when I see art like that, I look out of curiousity of what other people look like or do. But never has it turned me on, never has it seemed erotic.
The problem here is just that misinterpretation, that eroticsim means vaginas and penises and penetration or whatever. Georgia O' Keefe is famous for being erotic but there is none of that. Most of the time when I buy art I buy it because it brings out desire in me. I want that peice of the artist or what they saw. It may be a portrait where the person just has an expression I desire or maybe I identify with. I would call the facial expression erotic. Erotic art is also mental not just physical, while artwork maybe a physical manifestation it should provide a mental reaction from the viewer. When you don't have a mental/physical reaction from the viewer it is just wallpaper, it is just pretty. You think oh, I really like the Grand Canyon I want it above the mantel. What does it say about you? It says you are boring, at least to me. If you have a big vaginia above your mantel I'd think the same thing. I have a vagina I've seen plenty...so what? Any one can see a vaginia if they want to just like anyone can see the Grand Canyon if they want. Good art, art I desire should be a picture that is unique, a picture that no one else could normally see.
That is eroticism is important. Eroticsim by defintion is sexual life in all it's phases of physical and mental development and manifestations. Here in Indianapolis we are still only looking at it in it's physical manifestations. That's why the responses to this blog have been what they are. By the way, Why are there no women on this blog? Obviously this is just a male response to eroticsim, stuffy fucking men.

Jim said...
December 27, 2005 at 6:56 PM

Response to the anonymous posting about moving on from Surrealism: That's what I was talking about... the possibility of moving on to Eroticism as a school or approach to art. ... right now, we are supposed to be in postmodernism... what does that mean? How different is it from what the Duchamp and the Surrealists did?

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