The timing of this erotic art show's opening -- just after a presidential inauguration -- is apropos. After Bush Senior was sworn into the White House, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's sadomasochistic photos were fiercely denounced by conservative politicos, which, of course, helped make him the scandalous darling of the art world. Now, as we prepare for four more years of the younger Bush, conservative government's ironic ability to influence envelope-pushing art continues.
"I think one of the things that inspired the show was an enormous resurgence of this form in the last couple of years," says Sara Kellner, the executive director of DiverseWorks and co-curator of "Erotic." Kellner gathered 34 internationally renowned artists for the show, which will next travel to the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
The exhibit's stars are R. Crumb and Chloe Piene. Big Healthy Girl Enjoys Deep Penetration from the Rear comes courtesy of Crumb, who created the iconic and trippy Fritz the Cat and is largely considered the father of underground comics. Piene, who made waves at New York's Whitney Biennial, shares a series of visceral charcoal drawings, Thirty Years Old, which depict a woman in the throes of onanism. The show also spotlights artists on the verge, such as Texan Scott Burns, Canadian Stephen Andrews and Chinese native Su-en Wong. The works, which range from classical to cartoony, include pieces on paper, other materials and even hand-drawn animation. Some, like Kim McCarty's Yellow Boy, are almost disturbingly sensual, while others, like Crumb's Healthy Girl, are just silly.
But they're significant, as is the fact that Houston, a Bush stronghold, is premiering an erotic touring show. "It's big," says Kellner. "We get to show the world that Houston's not just for cowboys."