Morgan Lehman Gallery is pleased to present Sexy Time: A Group Effort, an exhibition of emerging and mid-career artists working in a variety of media. This exhibition attempts to address the multiple ways we filter, confront, and communicate sexuality through humor and satirical means. Humor is often used as a coping mechanism to confront loaded issues such as sex, desire, violence, and politics. Humor can also be a safe platform to address and approach these often taboo topics that are multifaceted and potentially difficult to navigate. Several of the works in this show address identity, place, and sexuality through a playful lens. Within the context of the show, we hope to create a discourse that can lead viewers beyond societal barriers that filter out the complex realities of contemporary culture. Humor, lightness, and honesty will hopefully shed light upon the secrecy and sense of taboo that is normally placed upon any discussion of difficult issues.
The following artists’ work is included in the exhibition: Susan Anderson’s vividly colored photographs of child beauty pageant contestants posing for the camera twist notions of beauty, sexuality, and identity. They conjure thoughts on how identity and sexuality are prescribed to us at a very early age. Michael Caines’ iconography is conceived through his personal experiences and fears. He creates ambiguous characters and places them in various scenarios that address mortality, identity, and male sexuality. Richard Colman creates familial scenarios that are honest and vulnerable, but with a theatrical quality. Relationships between clothed, topless, and naked figures, decapitated heads spewing rainbows, and copulating bears involve mortality, sexuality, and community. Chrissy Conant confronts feminine identity, mortality, objectification of women, and parental influence in “Chrissy Skin Rug”, a silicone rubber cast of her entire naked body. Positioned as a life size human rug, similar to a bear skin rug one might find on a hunting lodge wall. The eyes and mouth are wide open, intentionally confronting the viewer. Franklin Evans is represented in the show by two videos that reference the homoerotic nature of baseball. His densely layered drawing style is transposed to video through layered images of his own drawings, overlaid with digital markings and musical excerpts that set the amusingly frenetic yet erotic mood. James Gobel utilizes felt, yarn and fabric to create strong and sensual portraits of heavyset bearded men, a.k.a. bears. Inspired by pin up magazines of large men, the gentleness and materiality of the work enables the subjects to be viewed in a light and comfortable space of their own, while the bold color and unabashed glamour seduces. Kris Knight’s soft, yet boldly rendered figurative painting of two young men addresses sexual identity, intimacy and isolation. The flushed, youthful faces in his work seem to reflect notions of self consciousness, awareness, and place. The private moment between his subjects appears penetrated with an awareness of being seen. Sabrina Marques’ finely crafted works on paper play with themes of sex, hunting and the rural United States. James Merrell generally shows his work in public venues like the sides of buildings or street-side billboards. He riffs on popular advertising, often playing with gender and sexuality, often fooling the viewer they are seeing a typical, wheat-pasted advertising poster when in fact it is an oil painting transferred onto the surface. Matthew Palladino’s drawings and paintings investigate sexuality and violence with raw and loaded imagery through an urban filter. Heavy blacks help ground the tension and color he places in his compositions. His work seems to expose with no judgment. Randy Polumbo’s sculptural bouquets of cast glass dildos and butt plugs seduce the viewer visually, then surprise him/her once the content is clear. They bounce between beauty, absurdity and playfulness and at the same time address environmental issues, as many of these kinetic sculptures are solar powered.
Sabeen Raja was trained as a miniature painter in Lahore, Pakistan and works out her personal demons by crafting contemporary Pakistani miniature paintings fusing traditional techniques with themes of love, sadness and displacement. Huston Ripley’s highly detailed ink on Japanese paper drawings are embedded with sexual references. Phalluses, erotic imagery, and forward looking faces infest the surface and create a mandala- like image. Ripley’s repetition and mark making envelop each other leading to a density that is difficult to escape from. Alison Ruttan’s video work abstracts movements found in pornographic video with generalized color and shapes, mimicking painting. She is commenting simultaneously on the viewer’s perception and imagination, referencing the subversive use of humor in art. John Salvest’s “Household Fetish” is a sculpture of a portion of a door with the doorknob constrained by rubber bands. While the tight wrapping of the rubber bands plays with the idea of S&M, the title also refers to the fetishistic compulsion to collect and save mundane materials.Alix Smith’s idealized portrait turns stereotype on its head when a nude young woman in a seemingly childhood bedroom flips through vintage Playboy magazines. The sense of voyeurism is doubled as the subject views the magazines as we view her. The photograph also challenges contemporary society’s ideas of gender, beauty, and self perception. Taravat Talepasand, an Iranian- American, juxtaposes eastern and western cultures in a self portrait titled “Native Americans Beware of Native Influences”. It is emblematic of many of her paintings that speak to the identity of women, herself, Islam, the West, sensuality, sorrow, and seduction. Paul Villinski’s functional dress made of white cotton art handling gloves comments on fashion, sexiness and touch. While the dress is quite beautiful, its light humor is in the irony of the fact that gloves used to handle artwork have become the artwork itself. Suzanne Wright’s colored pencil drawings question authority, power, and desire by combining nude reclining women in revealing poses intertwined with power plants, planes, and oil rigs. Rob Wynne’s contribution to the show takes the form of a small appropriated photograph fabulously framed in bubblegum-pink felt. The humor of the work lies in the luscious tactility of the handmade frame juxtaposed with the graphically sexual nature of the tiny image it surrounds.
James Gobel and Taravat Talepasand courtesy of Marx & Zavattero, Michael Caines and Kris Knight courtesy of Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, Susan Anderson courtesy of Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Sabeen Raja courtesy of Conner Contemporary Art, and Alison Ruttan courtesy of moniquemeloche.