Anyone who attended Bushwick Open Studios this past weekend knows there was a plethora of penetrating art. Especially at the closing weekend of “Housebound,” an exhibit at Chasm Gallery where penises abounded.
“I liked the idea of a threesome with a show that’s kind of about sexuality,” said curator Jess Holburn about her decision to feature a trio of artists. “I wanted to have a show that was a bit loose and raw – one that showed less established artists and more emerging artists that tend to engage with street art or art you can’t stick in a gallery.”
She wasn’t kidding about raw. Take, for instance, Bonnie Lane’s “castration collages,” which employ images of disembodied heads and dick pics (the owners of which she meets via Tinder). The works challenge prescribed gender roles by objectifying the male figure with the “female gaze.” An Australian-born artist now getting her MFA at NYU, Lane’s display on and around a dresser was much smaller than the large spaces she normally inhabits. A video that played on a tiny table had been toned down for BOS. Holburn explained the original video was of “a guy with a cage on his dick masturbating while she [Lane] is fucking another guy.”
For the most part, Holburn wanted to center the show around “the idea of banal erotics” (hence the title “Housebound”). Taking up one wall (from top to bottom) were photographs by Aaron McElroy, who has had solo shows at Horton Gallery in New York and at Ampersand Gallery in Portland.
His portraits are both beautiful and intensely intimate – a woman’s bare torso, another of a woman’s legs covered in shaving cream, a female bottom barely covered in panties and raised up towards the camera.
“He sort of captures women in this voyeuristic way. His subjects tend to be lovers and friends,” said Holburn, explaining that many of the women reach out to him to be photographed. “He likes there to be a pre-existing kind of intimacy with the subject, rather than just using random women. So, there’s an intimacy there.”
Though the artists strived to create a space that wasn’t too confrontational for BOS, the art still makes large statements about sexuality, gender, and — especially in the case of the third artist, TextaQueen — exoticism. Her artwork was opposite McElroy’s. A large nude portrait of the Indian-Australian artist was surrounded by ingredients integral to Indian cooking. She lies placidly while a bottle of milk pours itself on her chest. The theme of being “jizzed” on by milk is repeated in a smaller sequence of portraits that emulate the Cadbury logo.
“It’s this whole idea of identity being whitewashed,” explained Holburn. “So there’s playfulness, but there’s also an erotic element.”
Dominique Wells, a visitor to “House Bound,” told us it was “the most edgy and unexpected” of the shows she had seen at Bushwick Open Studios. “Everywhere you look is kind of a surprise. It’s very exotic and provocative,” she said.
Who knows whether New York‘s own Jerry Saltz felt the same way. He stopped by for a quick chat with Holborn and posed with her in front of McElroy’s display. His one joking request was that he not be photographed next to the vagina.