Thursday, August 06, 2009

Slag Gallery Turns On ...

[“Diversified Financial,” (2008) Slava Mogutin, archival inkjet print paper mounted on canvas panel. “Rooster Boy Red,” (2005) Brian Kenny, spray paint & oil pastel on paper. “Benediction of Jenna Jameson,” (2008) Kristian Kozul, Photo Collage]

Slag Gallery has done it again with its current show “Turn On,” a rich collection of work with themes of sexuality curated by Özkan Cangüven, and running through September 22. Several issues are confronted in this installation. First, how is an artwork’s perception affected if it contains sexual themes? Do sexual themes lessen the value of artworks? How are graphically sexual artworks interpreted beyond shock effect? Is such work, by its very nature, taken less seriously? What is the line between porn and art? Are various media such as painting, drawing, or sculpture “kinder” to sexual subjects as opposed to photography, video, and film? Why are erotic themes still so sensitive a subject in the art world?

Since art is about watching—and oftentimes being voyeuristic—“Turn On” investigates art’s power to stimulate intellectually while also being sexually titillating. This show will undoubtedly be different things to different people. Some will be aroused, others may be repelled, and still others may find it a mental turn on. Whatever their various reactions, viewers will be able to connect their own sexual psyche to pieces in the show.

Brian Kenny is full of life and his art is a testimony to this—regardless of myriad utilized media that include drawing, painting, video, installation, music, performance, and sculptures with materials including durags, wood, wire, trash, words, found objects, shooting targets, and fetish gear. Born in 1982 on an American military base in Heidelberg, Germany, Kenny traveled extensively throughout the U.S. with his army family. A competitive gymnast as a teenager, he went to Oberlin Conservatory on a vocal scholarship, but eventually left to concentrate on his own music and artwork. In 2004, Brian moved to New York where he began collaborating with Slava Mogutin under team name SUPERM. They have created site-specific, multimedia gallery and museum shows in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Moscow, Oslo, Bergen, and León (Spain). His “Wigger” series in this show is joyous in its hip-hop influence and perspective on suburban youth culture. “Sneaker Boy” and “Led Zeppelin Boy” (2005) are fresh and smart.

Slava Mogutin started life in the industrial Siberian city of Kemerovo and moved to Moscow as a teenager. There he worked as a journalist and editor for the first independent Russian media after the fall of communism. Running afoul of the authorities because of his outspoken queer writings, Mogutin was accused of “open and deliberate contempt for generally accepted moral norms,” “malicious hooliganism with exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence,” and otherwise fomenting social, national, and religious division with his “propaganda of brutal violence, psychic pathology, and sexual perversions.” Targeted by three notorious trials and facing seven years of possible jail time, he fled Russia and—with the support of Amnesty International and Pen American Center—was granted political asylum in the U.S.

Mogutin shifted his focus to visual art: His photography has been exhibited internationally and published in a wide range of venues. Author of two hardcover monographs of photography, “Lost Boys” and “NYC Go-Go,” Mogutin has had seven books published in Russian. Winner of the Andrey Bely Prize for Poetry (2000), his poetry, fiction, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies in six languages. Mogutin has translated Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, William S. Burroughs’ essays, and Dennis Cooper’s fiction into Russian. He appeared in Bruce LaBruce’s “Skin Flick” (1999) and Laura Colella’s independent feature “Stay Until Tomorrow” (2004). His third photography book is scheduled to come out in fall 2009. Exploring commodification of youth in our consumer society, his “Stock Boyz” collages are a whimsical amalgam of nude male figures, Eastern European porn sites, and stock market charts from the “New York Times.”

Intimacy, typically a term reserved for couples, comes to the fore in Keren Moscovitch’s new work in which romance is implicit, commitment expected, and longevity admired. “Me Into You” investigates the limits as well as the infinite possibility of intimacy. Moscovitch delves into the private spaces of a sexually interwoven community and its depicted relationships as an active participant. Investigating how intimacy and sensual relating manifest in openly non-monogamous relationships, Moscovitch’s images draw from deep emotional resonance to raw sexuality, bodies, and gestures arrested by the camera, made available to the viewer, and presented as rich tactile environments. Stage sets for relating, inhabited spaces are integrated into viewers’ full sensory fields. Such images invite the viewer into a sexually charged atmosphere and transmit sensations of desire, tenderness, and lust.

Bill Durgin work has appeared in galleries throughout the country including, most recently, the 2008 SMFA Traveling Scholars exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and a Solo show, Figurations, at Merge Gallery in New York. He has also exhibited at Judy Goldman Fine Arts in Boston, SF Camerawork, jennjoygallery in San Francisco, and Ego Gallery in Barcelona. In 2006 he was named as a Surface Avant Guardian award winner. Published in Paper, Corduroy, Elle, New York, Time Out New York, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Art News, his rich and textured photographs feature wavelike arrangements of flesh and abstracted forms lacking appendages and hair. Contortion and camera perspective bring about the very movement of these sculptural works.

Obsessively crafted, Kristian Kozul’s shrine to porn star Jenna Jameson transforms banal objects into an outrageous reliquary. T.M. Davy’s paintings—with their manipulation of technique, light, and color—are a special treat and not at all what they seem at first. Additionally, the show includes “Documenta Sex,” a playful and interactive manifesto by A.A. Bronson presented in zine form.

Turn On

@ SLAG Gallery

531 West 25th Street, Ground 10, NYC 10001
Through September 19, 2009

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