The exhibition features contemporary and historical works of art in which sex penetrates philosophy or in which philosophy's hidden, or not so hidden, erotic metaphors are mined.
Since the time of Plato, much of Western philosophy has privileged rational thought over the vicissitudes of the body. The exhibition engages with the thinking of contrarians in this long history in which passion and emotion were held subordinate to reason. Running counter to this trajectory, from Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to Bataille and Breton, philosophers and dissident writers have either attempted to invert the old hierarchies or, as in a series of witty imprinted drawings by Agnes Denes (the initial inspiration for this exhibition) attempted to insert the body and its amorous instruments directly into the grid-like matrix of the rational.
On view are works that straddle abstraction and explicitness, from the wordplay of Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q to Hans Bellmer’s graphic vintage photographic studies for Georges Bataille's Histoire de l'œil (Story of the Eye). Other works include Paul Chan’s placard ink drawing depicting the functional font he created from the Marquis de Sade’s writings (the act of typing performs a translation to the profane). Similarly, in Euclid/Bataille, Christine Davis collages choice words penned by Bataille into the pages of a mid-19th century copy of a book on Euclidean geometry. A selection from Sophie Calle’s exhibition Appointment with Sigmund Freud (originally installed in situ at the Freud Museum, London) lowers the tone to the personal and irrepressible.
As a nod to the linkage between sex and all theories of origin, the exhibition also presents works that draw on Courbet’s infamous L’Origine du monde, a painting once owned by the psychoanalytic philosopher Jacques Lacan. In an array of media, Sherrie Levine, Anna Ostoya and Serkan Ozkaya subvert the original. In other works, a worldview is set up against the image of the erotically charged body, as in Eric Baudelaire’s photogravures of magazines where nude bodies have been censored by Japanese authorities. Nida Sinnokrot’s Untitled Zipper #3, intertwines world politics with sexual suggestion, likening erotic openings to border crossings, and addressing power imbalances that are flaunted in the creation and division of territories.
Reading against the grain of the dominant narrative of the text, the collective fierce pussy (Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka) infiltrates the rationalist, modern space of the gallery with their wheat-pasted posters of re-constituted lesbian pulp fiction. In all of the works, sex and philosophy, text and subtext, interpenetrate the works on display.
The exhibition also includes a selection of related artists’ books and philosophical texts.
About the Curators
Christopher Eamon, the former director of the distinguished Pamela and Richard Kramlich Collection, San Francisco, and the New Art Trust, and a former assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, has curated exhibitions at museums and galleries throughout the world including the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; MoMA PS1; the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Aspen Art Museum, and other major institutions. His exhibition, Accidental Modernism, combining historical and contemporary works in diverse media, opened at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects in January 2008. His most recent exhibition, Rearview Mirror: New Art from Central and Eastern Europe, originated in June 2011 at The Power Plant, Toronto and is currently on display at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Eamon’s numerous publications include Anthony McCall: the Solid Light Films and Related Works (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL and Steidl, Germany, 2005). His writings on film and video art from 1950 to 1980 appear in Film and Video Art (Tate Publishing, 2009) and he is the co-editor, with Stan Douglas, of Art of Projection (Hatje Cantz, 2009), an anthology on the history and significance of projected images from the eighteenth century to the present.
Beth Stryker, an architect and curator based in New York, has worked extensively in the Middle East, both as an independent curator, and as the Director of NAAS (the Network of Arab Arthouse Screens). Her writing on art and architecture in the Middle East has appeared in magazines such as Bidoun and Domus. Stryker has recently curated exhibitions and programs for the Brooklyn Museum; the French Institute, New York; the Beirut Art Center, Lebanon; the AIA/Center for Architecture in New York City (where she held the position of Director of Programs), and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Her artworks have been exhibited widely at institutions including the Wexner Center for the Arts; the Walker Art Center; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Stryker received her M.Arch from Princeton University in 2004. She attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 2002, and has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants. She was the founding Board Chair of Denniston Hill, an interdisciplinary artist-in-residence organization sited in upstate New York.
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is located on the sixth floor of 535 West 22nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Gallery hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.