Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Art Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes – Drawings by Kevin Bourgeois

Bourgeois is on to something, not particularly subtle, but sometimes you have to hit people between the eyes to make a point. This collection of graphite drawings demonstrates superb technique and an impressive political awareness. For anyone who believes that being politically aware is a sine qua non among artists, we have two words for you: Jeff Koons.

In the same vein as Tom Tomorrow or Winston Smith’s collages, Bourgeois takes 1950s graphic iconography and twists it into some disturbingly familiar images. The best is a parable of pill-popping, a couple of laboratory beakers filled with trompe l’oeil pills layered one on top of the other, “up” arrows at the mouth of the glass. These serve as the bodies for the heads above themn, a vast array of pipes and tubing in the background a la the movie Brazil.

There’s another one which essentially parodies the pre-Renaissance painted religious icon. This woman is wearing an actual face mask (true to life, it’s dirty and dusty) and a battery motor where her heart should be, an inset picturing a pair of hands balled into fists, bound and stymied. And as you walk in the door, there’s another showing a woman actually popping a pill, chemistry equations and a lab diagram off to the side. Suffice it to say that it doesn’t appear that any of this was created while under the influence of Prozac. We need to see more of this artist. At Ch’i Contemporary Fine Art, 293 Grand St., Williamsburg, Weds-Sun 11 AM-7 PM, through March 10.

Something we assuredly do NOT need to see more of is on display at the Like the Spice Gallery. Rachel Beach and Nora Herting have a series of photos called “Flip:” the flyer for the show says it “features the work of two artists working with contradiction and ambiguity.” There’s absolutely nothing ambiguous here: it’s color shots of cheerleaders, all of whom seem to have their skirts around their waists and their legs spread. There’s nothing erotic about it – these are children, all of them prepubescent and all seemingly unaware that they were being photographed. And this isn’t silly stuff in the spirit of a giggling eight-year-old exclaiming, “Look, Mommy, you can see my hoo-hoo!” Could this be a graphic depiction of how women are objectified and exploited, starting in early childhood? Doubtful. If two men put on this very same show, they’d be pilloried. This is as “artistic” as Jock Sturges. Shame on them.

 

Marisa at Like the Spice Gallery responds:

” I came across your review today. I will in no way attempt to
change your view of the show but there are several factual errors in
your review I would like you to be aware of.
“Flip” is the exhibition’s title and not the name of the photographic
series of cheerleaders which is entitled “Spirit”.

The “Spirit” series is solely the production of Nora Herting; Rachel
Beach has a separate body of work in the show.

The “Spirit” series is comprised solely of photographs taken candidly
at cheerleading competitions.  Both the subjects and their parents were
fully aware  that they were being photographed by the artist (and
others) during the routines that they choreographed and wearing
costumes that they selected.

If you would like to read further on this, feel free to read the show’s
press release at http://www.likethespice.com/flip.html

February 11, 2008 - Posted by | Art, Reviews

2 Comments »

  1. Is it disturbing and potentially exploitative that 8-year-old girls perform in so little clothing, move to sexualized choreography while wearing copious amounts of make-up and wigs? Some people might say yes.

    If this offends you then take issue with the 2 Billion dollar “Spirit” Industry, or the parents that enroll their daughters in this sport, or with ESPN who televised a majority of these _public competitions in which I made these images. Because it is a public event in which I paid admittance and the girls are public performers I have every right to photograph them along with thousands of parents and professional cheerleading portrait photography companies.

    Your review of my work is inaccurate and inflammatory. The images are not merely color photographs of girls with “their legs spread.”

    Among other things, the multi-media images are a reflection on an extensive pastime for young American girls. I believe the “ambiguity” mentioned in the galleries press release refers both to formal qualities, as the girls are digitally removed from the background of the sports arenas and placed in front of elaborate designs created from their own silhouettes. The ambiguity also arises between the athleticism and physical challenges the girls over come as athletes and the disturbing sexualization of their bodies.

    I have listed several links. The last being my website, where I hope your readers, being less reactionary than yourself, might view the work and come to their own conclusions.

    http://www.noraherting.com/spirit_frameset.html

    Comment by Nora Herting | February 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. If little boys were required to perform gymnastics in their underwear, and there was someone in the stands photographing their every move, it’s a good bet that security would throw that person out and maybe even have them arrested.

    To say that it’s tragic that our society contributes to the objectification and sexualization of prepubescent girls not only in film, television and fashion but even in athletics is a gross understatement.

    What you do is legal, but would you want sexualized, half-naked photos of your daughter, or your sister spread all over the walls of a gallery – never mind the Internet?

    Who are your potential customers here? They’re drooling old men in trenchcoats (or drooling old men in business suits). At best, your work is irresponsible. At worst, it’s despicably evil. As are many of the parents who subject their daughters to the dehumanizing aspects of the “spirit industry,” as you so euphemistically call it. They’re no better than Jon-Benet Ramsey’s parents. Or the person or persons who murdered her. To criticize your work, or the “spirit industry,” or the pageant industry is hardly reactionary. It’s liberating.

    Comment by delarue | February 21, 2008 | Reply


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