© Paul Green

© Paul Green

Idols of Perversity

Ion Birch
, Ben Blatt, Ray Caesar, Colin Christian, Sass Christian, Dave Cooper, John Currin, Dame Darcy, Lori Early, Paul Green, Everest Hall, Duncan Hannah, Jocelyn Hobbie, Catherine Howe, James Jean, June Kim, DR. LAKRA, Graham Little, Ruth Marten, Tim Mensching, Ted Mineo, Mel Odom, Christopher Pugliese, Pieter Schoolwerth, Christoph Stienmeyer, Jansson Stegner, Thomas Woodruff

Bram Dijkstra's "Idols of Perversity - Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin de Siecle Culture" was a curious and esoteric book that appeared in the mid 1980s. Written with a decidedly feminist slant, Mr. Dijkstra explored "the magnificent dreams of intellectual achievement doomed to wither before the tempting presence of women". With fabulous chapter headings such as: The Cult of Invalidism; the Nymph with the Broken Back; Poison Flowers, Maenads of Decadence; and the Cold Caress of the Sphinx; this book enabled those inclined to swoon in the heady ether of 19th century symbolist imagery.

This art seemed so contrary to the tenets of the work of the dry pure abstractionists, steely minimalists, and icy conceptualists who sternly ruled the arts when the book was first published. At the time serious discussions of Symbolist art were rare, as if a plot was hatched to suppress and malign the movement because it did not fit easily into the art historical thrust of modernism.

"Idols of Perversity", an exhibition of painting, drawing and sculpture, re-imagines Dijkstra's book by exploring this loaded cultural phenomenon. Each imagistic work depicts a beautiful young woman or man in ways significantly reminiscent of those painted over a century ago. Is this a sick, kitsch throwback? Is it a neo-conservative reinvestigation of beauty? Is it a post-punk act of aesthetic defiance? The answers to these questions are complex, and we hope, visually rich. At first glance, the art seems strangely familiar, but upon inspection certain distinctions become apparent. The figures depicted do not seem to be the "Zombies of the Male Gaze". They seem to be more like idealized stand-ins or self-portraits than objects to possess. They also seem devoid of the one-liner jokiness of simple appropriation, these works may actually be sincere!

We have tried to blur the barriers of high and low art, opting for craft rather than context. The whole effect is intended to be a woozy imagistic love fest, brimming with guilty pleasures. By using a vocabulary rooted in the past, these contemporary artists all seem to aspire to something that is overlooked in most contemporary art practice, that is, the capacity to feel some emotion in a desensitized world. It is a simple yet subversive undertaking, easily dismissed by the jaded as merely sentimental.

Curated by Thomas Woodruff and Becky Smith

Exhibition: June 30 - August 6, 2005
Gallery hours: Mon-Fri 11 am - 6 pm (Summer hours)

Bellwether Gallery
134 Tenth Avenue (between 18th and 19th Streets)
USA-New York, NY 10011
Telephone +1 212 929 5959
Email becky@bellwethergallery.com