The opening reception for "For Adults Only" at Eleven East Ashland looks like a house party, with people mingling on the porch drinking cheap Chardonnay from plastic cups. I slide through the front door without pausing to drop a donation, somehow convinced that everything's going to be perverted, maybe even dark and sadistic.
The show, which closes this Saturday, is just the opposite. It's bright, the patrons seem normal, and nobody's making out in the corner of a room. It looks as if David Cook, the gallery's director/owner, has strategically displayed each piece over some random crack in the wall of this old historic home, still classed as residential property even though there is an art gallery established on the ground floor. There's still a kitchen, but now it's without appliances -- you can see the space where the refrigerator goes. Two boobs with baby-bottle nipples (Breast Bottles, created by Nancy J. Schneider) are mounted on the wall next to scarlet-tinted pics of a couple in foreplay.
I am not one to shun images of naked women and in-your-face male genitalia. Time for some art appreciation.
I spin a steel sculpture of a man's torso and hope it doesn't stop on the flaccid side. I check out more female breasts over the mantelpiece, these constructed from circuit boards and solidified silver goop. They're called Virtual Group II, part of a series by Roblee Hossman. Then there are three photographs framed together that Rebecca McBride has appropriately titled The Curse. They graphically depict a woman's yoohoo with an anonymous clenched bloody fist emerging from you-know-where doing I-don't-know-what -- a gynecological exam in reverse, perhaps? The piece must work, in any case, because I'm sucked in, staring at it, pointing it out to strangers like some kid on a playground.
Among the 40-plus works on display in the fourth annual show, guest-jurored by Kraig Foote -- director of Art One -- are paintings by Jill Martin such as Couple and Chicken, in which the former enjoy foreplay while a plucked chicken lies on the floor by their bed. The plucked chicken has various symbolic meanings for the artist -- I know this because she told me so when she overheard me commenting on her painting to somebody else at the reception. Another standout is Pussy Crunch Cereal, a parody of a certain cereal-box character. Here he's serving up a bowl of fish heads for hungry felines -- all double meanings are unintentional, of course.
Cook got the idea for the display from the Alwun House's annual Erotica show. He says it wasn't his intention to compete with the other gallery, but Eleven East Ashland's exhibit has become pretty popular, probably because voyeurism is on the rise and people such as myself, innocent as we are, are curious about this world. We just don't know where to find it except in galleries.
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