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Sex Drive Melts the Snow at Haverford College


By Dennis D’Alesandro

Sex Drive is a thoughtfully curated 22-person group show that coincides with the humanities seminar “Sex, State and Society in the Early Modern World.” The show brings together a diverse array of sex-infused artworks that deal with all manner of relevant sexual themes, including fetish, fantasy, infatuation, sin, gender persuasion, public scandal, romance, and the role of political and religious conventions.

David Wojnarowicz OneDayThisKid 1
David Wojnarowicz – “Untitled (One Day this Kid…)”

Greeting you upon entering the gallery is a 4’ x 6’ vinyl reproduction of David Wojnarowicz’ “Untitled (One Day This Kid…),” 1990. Wojnarowicz, a prominent NYC artist throughout the 1980s who died of AIDS in 1992, most recently made headlines after the Smithsonian rashly removed one of his video pieces because of vitriol from conservative right wing Christian politicians over the image of ants crawling over a crucifix. “One Day This Kid…” consists of a picture of the artist in his youth, surrounded by text explaining the negative domino-effect of events that would befall him because of being gay. This poignant work touches on the religious, political and societal pressures and injustices that shape people’s perceptions regarding gays in America. According to Stuart Horodner, the curator of the show, the inclusion of Wojnarowicz’s piece “tells us that matters of the flesh remain contentious and timely.”

Anissa Mack Untitled
Untitled sculpture by Anissa Mack

Switching gears, another standout is a simple, untitled sculpture by Anissa Mack. A small stack of about 15 Playboy magazines sits neatly piled in the middle of the floor. On top of this stack rests a small bronze sculpture, painted to look like a paper mache jack-o-lantern. If analyzed in strictly aesthetic terms, the little bulging pumpkin resembles a breast with a burnt marshmallow nipple, while its face has a suggestive, open-mouthed and orgasmic expression. Yet the bronze pumpkin may represent an immovable obstacle that stands between a person and his/her desires. On the other hand, if the pumpkin’s one tooth is regarded as a baby’s tooth, the piece could comment on how the arrival of children can put stress on a couple’s sex life.

Looping on a TV in the corner is a re-edit of a mysteriously gothic-looking, soft-core spanking video by Leigh Ledare. The woman starring in the film is the artist’s mother, who is said to have produced this spanking movie with “some family friends.” The low budget film is somewhat mesmerizing, and appears to be shot on location in a strange mansion bringing to mind the old 1960s TV show Dark Shadows. Ledare’s mother does her best to stay focused as the directors call out awkward sounding instructions and fumble with the camera work. I’m sure this footage, if properly edited, would qualify as an erotic spanking film, but Ledare instead chooses to emphasize the rougher, uncut behind-the-scenes POV, giving incite to the humor and confusion that can go into making a porno movie. The video also seems to allude to a sort of inevitable sexual perversion that grows from the glamorous boredom of the affluent.

Ion Birch Young Love
Ion Birch – “Young Love”

Alas, no art exhibition of such titillating subject matter would be complete without some good old-fashioned, low-brow pencil drawings. Ion Birch, an artist whom I’ve been following for a while now, has two excellent pieces in the show. Giant erect penises jut towards equally gigantic and gaping vaginas, as everywhere innocent-looking nymphs grab for any penis they can get their hands on. These are trippy-fun, garden orgies a la Alice in Wonderland. The exaggeration of sex organs surely brings to mind the hedonistic imagery of pre-lava Pompeii, but what amused me the most was the faces of the men in these drawings, who resemble middle-aged Dorian Grays lost in a fountain of youth fantasy, where all the girls are happy to oblige.

Sex Drive runs until March 4 at Haverford College in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, which is located on the second floor of the Whitehead Campus Center.