Castration Myth

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Aktion 3, 1965 Gelatin Silver Print 15.5 X 11.5 Inches © Courtesy of Steven Wolf Fine Arts
Castration Myth

2747 19th Street
A (cross street at York)
San Francisco, CA 94110
September 11th, 2010 - October 9th, 2010
Opening: September 11th, 2010 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Union Square/Civic Center
Wed-Sat 12-6


September 11 - October 9
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 11, 6 - 8pm

Please note our new gallery location:
2747 19th Street, A (cross street at York)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10:30-5:30, Saturday 11-5


On September 11, Steven Wolf Fine Arts will inaugurate its new space at 2747 19th Street with an exhibition of historical photographs by the legendary Viennese performance artist Rudolf Schwarzkogler.

In 1972 Robert Hughes wrote that Schwarzkogler “proceeded inch by inch to amputate his own penis while a photographer recorded the act as an art event.” Hughes had been looking at photos of Schwarzkogler’s 1965 Aktion 2, in which Schwarzkogler posed his friend with a filleted fish in his crotch. He also shot the model's penis bandaged and leaking fluid. It was all artifice. Yet the myth spread, and Schwarzkogler, who had leapt to his death from a second floor window in 1969, was mistakenly ushered into art world folklore as “the Vincent Van Gogh of body art.”

Myths have grown up around 9/11 in much the way they grew up around Schwarzkogler. “Truthers” on both the left and right see their worst fears reflected in the harsh cropping of the New York City skyline. For the avant-garde, 9/11 was the last nail in the coffin. Against the spectacle of the Twin Towers’ destruction, bad boy provocations, punk rock rantings and the musings of downtown anarchists suddenly seemed like nursery rhymes. The use of shock as an alarm clock for a dozing middle class was finally declared an academic affair.

As the shock value of Schwarzkogler’s lab of horrors has likewise dissipated, we can now focus more clearly on the photos’ other charms: their timeless chronicle of the self’s dissolution through sexual dismemberment, their queasy marriage of beauty and the grotesque, and their unique juxtaposition of brutality and dandyism.