1029 W. 35th St., Chicago, IL 60609
A slight woman in a white bridal dress and a man in a tux hand out perfume test strips from a card table in front of the door. I’m not sure why. There’s a crowd gathered around and the man is eagerly pushing the strips in people’s faces with an enormous smile. Little white strips litter the ground spreading out from the table, dispersed like a star burst.
Sexier is not your average titillating erotica show. Instead, textures—tactile and visual—assert themselves through a majority of the work, exuding a sexiness that is beyond the representational realm of eroticism. By textures, I mean an overwhelming haptic quality that attends the visual. As Gilles Deleuze said in Francis Bacon: the Logic of Sensation, “we will speak of the haptic…when sight discovers in itself a specific function of touch that is uniquely its own, distinct from its optical function.” Sexiness in itself has an immediate corporeal response, and so proves to be a natural and fruitful point of departure for such haptic work as seen in Sexier. As counter-point to the haptic, video work from Ei Jane Janet Lin and Miao Jiaxin or photography from Rebecca Waltz and Wang Ye-Feng function as erotic representations that allow for critical distance, romanticization and humor.
Ei Jane Janet Lin & Miao Jiaxin. Collaboration #5, 2010. Video loop.
However, you can’t have a show about sex without a few cum paintings so let’s start there.
A Singaporean filmmaker and performance artist, Zihan Loo's work Dispensary comprises of a darkened room, lit by black light, six small canvases lining opposite walls like the pillars of church. In the center of the room a low, square table acts as the canvas/receptacle for up to 60 friends of the artist who were invited to ejaculate onto the canvas. These friends were also asked to fill out a form detailing their last sexual encounter, as well as “what they visualize when they masturbate.” The artist then tasked himself with making a private performance tailored to the participant. The forms the participants filled out were also on display at the front of the room where the viewer entered. As it is with eroticism, it is that which is unseen and unknown that is of greatest interest.
Sticking with the masturbatory theme, artist Alexander Zak’s Late Night Attractions, 2011, installation was composed of a couch, a table, a box of tissues, hand lotion and a pile of "water weenies," (pun intended, I'm sure) those gel or liquid-filled toys from childhood that would always slip out of your hands if you held them too tight. Here a different kind of play was suggested. Over the night of the opening, piles of crumbled tissue began to populate the table and floor.
Artist Laura Lynn Hsieh populated a glass trophy case with iterations of a ceramic dildo for her piece Collectibles, 2011. Each had its own copper nameplate and base upon which to stand proudly erect, in a seeming nod to Chicago’s Cynthia Plaster Caster. Each name was a different man’s, but every dildo was the same. “Just like bowling trophies,” remarked one viewer.
I Was Born With Two Mango Tribes. Mourning Wood, 2011. Mixed media.
I Was Born With Two Mango Tribes, a collective made up of Chien An Yuan, Jon Monteverde and Greg Grucel contributed Mourning Wood, 2011, a large sculptural piece of a boy fast asleep under a tent of his own making.
C. C. Ann Chen’s Bouquet, 2011, was a small plate rimmed with gelatin molds of flowers, soft, jiggly and beautifully translucent. In this piece, the attention begins to turn to the sensual. Touch is the interface with the other in the sexual encounter, and the sensitivity to another becomes just as important as one’s own mastery of self. Similarly work like Ana Ut Kei’s disembodied velvet hoods, Un: Attached I, II, III, evoke not only the sexual organs (the clitoral hood, the opening and shrouded recesses) but also the attention, whether from another or one’s own self, that may accompany them.
Ling-An Fang’s work, Me & Me & Persimmons, 2010, is an intricate weave of fibers. Bright embroidery thread is sewn into a mesh, black plastic tarp to create an artwork that is sexual only in its vigor and allusions to shiny latex, wigs and candy-colored lipstick.
Much of the work, as you might be able to tell, is self-indulgent but what is sexuality if not an intimacy of the self, with the self? Know thyself, but know thy genitalia better. The use of the haptic by many artists in this show alludes to a unity of perception that tends to escape most artists because of the experiential distance caused by representation. This is a paradoxical situation because representational work supposedly presents a unified visual experience, whereas the haptic presents functions of sensory experience, effectively degrading the illusion of unified perception. By working with a material that retains a visceral quality, we are, however, reminded of our visceral nature. By reminding the eyes of texture, we are reminded of touch, and of the component parts of experience that together make up what is called the self.
-Joel Kuennen, ArtSlant Staff Writer