"What people see, eventually, is only what's already inside them." Thomas Ruff
The theme of sex and pornography is not novel in art. Gustav Courbet's "L'Origine du monde" 1866 ("Origin of the World"), remains even today a controversial piece. It is held that its insistent focus on the female's torso and genitals objectifies and dehumanizes his subject, rendering it thus pornographic. Ina
rguably in its most shallow interpretation it is an iconic "sex image" that has inspired and caused numerous reinterpretations by contemporary artists. A primal curiosity towards this type of image becomes the fountain from which the artist has chosen to express his or her own intimate relation to a sexual experience and a reaction to the image that affects them. Today our environment is understood, interpreted and defined through "image" and its rapid digital exchange. If we accept mass media as a propagator of the "sex image" then the artist's response is closely connected to its effects.
The past decade has produced more pornography in the United States than any other, and technology has satisfied consumer's appetite for it. Contemporary artists have interiorized and produced numerous works around that center, and around the conceptualization and reconfiguration of the aesthetics of the "sex image" as they have perceived it. The 2010 film "Destricted" asked of accomplished and celebrity artists like Matthew Barney, Cecily Brown, Richard Prince, Tunga, and renowned film makers like Larry Clark to interpret and examine the themes of sex and pornography, who have for decades explored and based their work on similar themes. HOT TIGHT is intended as a centrifugal project from this film. It asks of the artists to consider the relevance and impact that the "sexual image" has had on their work. How a sexualized system of entertainment has molded their creative process and its results. It aims to discover in unison a voice or common language among them. We ask them to consider definitions of the sexual subject to social political and historical influence. The ideas of arousal and stimulation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, fantasy, and desire play an important role in these works. Artists like Jeff Koons, John Waters, Jeff Burton, Nobuyoshi Araki, Richard Kern, Paul Mcarthy, John Currin, Sam Jackson, Kristen Stoltman and Tracy Emin have, in varied forms and in various mediums, and throughout their successful careers produced transgressive works that explore the carnal, vivid e
xpressions, metaphorically and directly, that the "sexual image" conjures. The honest aesthetics of self-image, intimacy and vulgarity, are ever present in their work. The works grouped in this show intend and aspire to travel in parallel with these concepts. Also of main interest here is to explore the idea that a kind of game begins and evolves spontaneously between a spectator and a specific artwork when confronted with challenging material and that diatribes arise about notions of obscenity, art, pornography and decency. These works also expect to identify and determine the semantic allusions to all these notions. The objects, sounds and videos in this exhibition are re-imaginations of the images that these artists have been confronted with and have been reinserted into society through their respective prisms.
Artists like Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe fought vigorously during the 1980's against censorship for their provocative work. In the present, pornography seems to have seeped into the "mainstream". Today's artist does not seem to have to fight the system but rather his own self as a creative being. He sets his own boundaries and limits, and can therefore subvert the established canons that can be imposed on contemporary art. Film-maker Steven Soderbergh cast porn star Sasha Grey in his film "The Girlfriend Experience." Photographers Ed Fox, Terry Richardson and Roy Stuart are comfortable and careful ethnographers around the porn set, and giant publishing houses like Taschen proudly distribute their books. Pop culture, porn and the "sex image" appear like a single entity to exert their power.The American Apparel clothing company, blogger/photographer "The Cobrasnake", film-makers Catherine Breilliat and Andrew Blake are just a few examples of important cultural actors that show and interpret for the audience in their unique views, the overwhelming relevance and influence that sex and the sexual image have in our society. They are our mirrors and we are theirs.
The works selected for HOT TIGHT are to be entertained within a context. Each artist has re-interpreted the aesthetic of the "sexual image", creating reactive pieces that grapple with their own feelings about overtly sexualized themes. Many of the works disclose a process of self awareness towards past personal behaviors. Each pondering observation on behalf of the artists reflect the influence of the "sexual image" and graphic interpretations of it in modern art. Ranging from video to collage photography to installations these works depict honest attitudes towards sex and hyper-sexualization through pornography and the informational osmosis that occurs in domestic and social environments as a result. Cynthia Cruz, Ricardo Sanz and Sleeper all show work that deal with technology and transference, experience and fantasy. They evoke a committed relationship to self and to the external and are filled with revelations of hidden sexual preoccupation or direct resistance to the outcomes, repetition and mass produced images. The photographers Martin Castillo and Maria Antonia Rodriguez, who work in both tandem and separately, (and were at one time a couple) both deal with domestic struggles and oneiric idealisms as they pertain to the subject of sex and the "sexual image" in the form of unmasked tableaus. Their works question constructs and ethics and suggest an innate, desired or rejected balance between our personal freedoms and commitments, Video and installations by Patricia Hernandez, Alfredo Travieso and Gyr Bartlett, are concerned with established stereotypes about the language of sexuality and male driven notions of sexuality within our society, it questions the permanence of objectification and the value of media, along with the way it can be experienced in a sensorial way. All the works presented in HOT TIGHT might steer from specific judgment of pornography and the pervasiveness of the "sexual image" in modern culture, but rather expose a definitive alliance to it as it has influenced each of their work.