Idols of Perversity
In this season of perfunctory group shows, “Idols of Perversity” at Bellwether stands out for its eerie cohesion. A taste for the erotic unifies the works in this exhibition, which are mostly paintings of distorted, sexualized women. Executed in a fusion of science-fiction, erotica, and Romanticism, these pieces appear to be sincere, albeit idiosyncratic, expressions of sexual fantasy. The press release, however, presents another perspective. The curator-artists Thomas Woodruff and Becky Smith are paying homage to Bram Dijkstra’s book Idols of Perversity from the 1980s, which analyzes misogyny in Fin-de-Siècle art and literature. In that era, artists and writers depicted women as evil sirens who impeded man’s progress and dragged him down into erotic materialism. This exhibition encourages us to think of John Currin, Ray Caesar and Lori Earley, among others, as revisiting this genre. The jury is out, however, on whether these predominately male artists are siding with Dijkstra’s feminism or are sincerely enjoying a taboo aesthetic.
Perry Rubenstein Gallery
Art and commerce have finally consummated their love and have produced Cereal Art. Founded in 2003, the company manufactures artist-designed home products that are ultra-hip and somewhat reasonably priced. The 24th Street space of Perry Rubenstein has been transformed into a glorified display case for such gems as a Yoshitomo Nara ashtray and Marcel Dzama salt and pepper shakers. The commercialization of fine art is so unapologetic here that it makes Jeff Koons look like a neo-Romanticist. The idealist in me wails at the sight of the Kirsten Hassenfeld jewelry box but the consumer in me really wishes it were a little cheaper. When the Perry Rubenstein show closes in August you can still find the products in museum stores and at www.cerealart.com which begs the question of why there was a show at all.