Adam and Eve Hit the Sauza

In Hannah and Her Sisters, Daniel Stern plays a rock star looking to buy artwork he doesn't claim to appreciate from an embittered intellectual portrayed by Max von Sydow. Von Sydow won't sell to this putz, who measures art by how it looks over a sofa.

There's something similar going on with George Holz's "Original Sin"; the exhibit's a bizarre mating of art, alcohol and ad dollars underwritten by a Mexican liquor: Tres Generaciones Tequila Sauza. "Instead of doing normal liquor ads, [the distillery is] doing this promotion," says Shannon Wilkinson of New York's Cultural Communications. "To their credit, they're not trying to control [content]. The artist has complete control of the images."

But is Holz's stuff art? Well, it's quite fine -- and it would look superb above a sectional. Holz made his mark shooting fashion plates for Vogue, Elle and Vanity Fair, which led him to the celebrity-portrait market and million-dollar smiles such as Sheryl Crow, Janet Jackson and Shania Twain.

But like one of those rock-video directors out to bag a theatrical release, he set his viewfinder on bigger game. "Original Sin" is not unlike a static rock video or a slick perfume ad: It's a carnal, steamy, occasionally breathtaking collection of platinum prints that reworks the Adam and Eve myth -- and relocates it to Tequila, Mexico.

In Holz's pics, two nude models -- they're actually brother and sister, which adds an even more fetishistic feel to the images -- romp around the Sierra Madre foothills (a.k.a. the Garden of Eden) and frolic on enormous mounds of agave husks (the plant's the central ingredient in tequila manufacturing). According to the press materials, "After Adam and Eve eat from this forbidden fruit [agave], they hallucinate, with tequila-induced images: sexually charged images of temptation, lust, good, evil, life and death." (So -- it wasn't our distant kin's failure to follow orders that got 'em bounced from the Garden; they were on a ripping drunk.)

If Holz's work lacks the vision and subtlety of great art, it boasts the focal clarity and in-your-face immediacy of the world of deadlines and bottom lines. "Art's art," muses Houston's John Cleary, whose gallery is hosting the touring show. "And this is the kind of contemporary art that young professionals want in their living rooms: cutting-edge themes, glamour."

And booze and sex.

-- Clay McNear

"Original Sin" opens Tuesday and continues through August 4. John Cleary Gallery, 2635 Colquitt, 524-5070.

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Clay McNear
Contact: Clay McNear