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Naughty at Heather Marx Gallery

Four Artists Get Racy

These days, art galleries abound with the kind of staid conceptual stuff that might raise your eyebrows just a notch but won’t necessarily do much to get the juices flowing. Just in case the latter is what you’re looking for, a new exhibition at the Heather Marx Gallery, entitled “Naughty” for simplicity’s sake, is pretty straightforward in its objectives: namely, to plumb the depths of the racy and risqué.

Work that blurs the line between pornography and conventional art is hardly a new idea, but what sets “Naughty” apart is the fact that the four assembled artists extend the basic cliché of naughtiness beyond a schoolgirl’s suggestive pout, creating their own textured commentary on rule-breaking through the ages. What results is a mélange of images that range from post-Impressionist fantasy to fabulous mélanges which mimic a pop culture orgy.

Thorina Rose’s posh yet sinister pieces reveal fables about femmes fatales who stalk their male prey without compunction. “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe” is a play on proto-Impressionist Edouard Manet’s titular tribute to the naked female bather, but Rose opts for a minimal glacial landscape in which three vamps coolly sip their cocktails over the corpse of a foppish aristocrat. The archaism of the spectacle, in which both men and women sport powdered wigs and old-fashioned attire, is cleverly undercut by the sharp reversal of gender roles. Rose’s piece “La Chasse” likewise exudes a classical, almost Grecian, iciness -- a pack of regal-looking women, equipped with nets, chase down a cluster of impossibly tiny naked men. The absurdity of the piece (perhaps heightened by the idea of dainty aristocratic women cast in the roles of hunters) is an effective counter to the almost pagan brutality of the scene, which equates masculinity with sexual inferiority and abjection.

Keith Boadwee’s magazine collages are vibrant snatches of pop culture decadence, from oiled and muscled porn stars to seductive images of high fashion in a frenetic mélange of what the artist calls his “favorite things.” “Mary Kate and Ashley” is a mixed media collage that pays homage to the twin icons by blending the concept of ideal femininity with images suggesting masculinity, age, race, and the caste system created by our culture of relentless consumption. In creating tableaux which illustrate the old adage that “image is everything,” Boadwee effectively reduces the image to meaningless rubble, so that each individual representation only achieves coherence in the context of surrounding images.

James Gobel’s psychedelic double portraits, which also explore the influence of pop culture icons, include pieces like “All We Have to Do is Take These Lies and Make Them True,” an obvious tribute to George Michael. Gobel’s other pieces similarly pay obeisance to flamboyant, fabulous men imprisoned in the cult of beauty and personality.

Ken Weaver is the artist whose works most closely approximate the stark eroticism of contemporary pornography. In Weaver’s paintings, men and women candidly indulge in carnal acts against an array of florid rococo backdrops and gaudy chandeliers that look like they hail from the set of a lavishly appointed San Fernando Valley porn.

Despite the sense that some of the pieces have less to do with actual “naughtiness” than they do with four highly subjective perceptions of sexuality, the artists guarantee a feast for the senses worthy of the Marquis de Sade himself.

Through August 19th
Opening reception July 15, 5-7 pm, FREE