Licking the Salt from the Biscuit of Life - Seduced: Art and sex from antiquity to now

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October 27th, 2007

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04:05 am - Seduced: Art and sex from antiquity to now
I just got the catalogue from Seduced: Art and sex from antiquity to now, an exhibition at the Barbican at London.

'The bravest and most intelligent exhibition of the year’ – The Guardian

The focus of the exhibition is the depiction of the sexual act. At first I thought there were some strange omissions, until I realised that erotic nudity, representations of fertility, art about pornography or explorations of gender - art about any of these didn't qualify to be included. So it's an unusual mixture.

I scanned in a few of my favourite pictures. Of course, most of them are much too explicit for photobucket, so I've doctored a few images to blot out genitals etc, because they were too much fun not to post.

My real find of the exhibition were the drawings of Juliao Sarmento, a Portuguese painter. I like the way he suggests without being too explicit. I found it more arousing than a lot of the full-blown images, actually. A bit like looking through a doorway or getting a sudden, suggestive flash.

Licking and Coming, 1995

Fucking and Missing
Dying, 1995

Anna, 2005

(There were others too, but I'm having computer problems.)

Then there were a collection of Greek (Attic) drinking cups, with erotic scenes painted on the bottom in red and black. I've seen roomfuls of these before, in The British Museum and the Louvre. From the catalogue:

"The often 'dry' displays of serried rows of pots in museums effectively neutralize the overtness of the sexual acts... explicit sexual acts were revealed slowly, in a surprising and titillating manner, as the wine was drained."

That was a new way of looking at them for me. Also, I'd never seen one of them with two woman on it before. I think it's quite a rare scene.

Attic red-figure cup, 500BC

There was a large section of Japanese erotic prints from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Hokusai's famous octopus scene. The participants in these had massively overstated genitals, both men and women. Not just large, but hairier and more veined, with every wrinkle and fold lovingly observed and exaggerated. I suuppose it makes sense - if sex is what the picture's about, then make that bit bigger to draw attention. Needless to say, I didn't even try posting these.

The Japanese prints in the catalogue were all M/F (Edit: I was wrong. I just found one of M/M, with a woman watching and masturbating), but one thing that I thought made this exhibition a of fresh air was the inclusion of lots gay and lesbian depictions along with the heterosexual. I liked how that was treated - all just sex, side by side. For example, there was this 18th century painting of Alexander and Hephaestion indulging in some light bumming (baroque slash wahey):

(genitals censored by me to get past Photobucket, I hope)

Or this wonderful Turkish book illustration (look at their cute little hats!), which I've censored again to remove the erections:

from Tuhget Ul-Mulk, 1773

There were some illustrations of French erotic novels (ie porny fanart)

Illustration for Therese philosophe, 1750 (there's an erect cock under that circle)

Illustration for Les Liasons Dangereuses, 1796

Also the usual suspects - Aubrey Beardsley, Klimt and Rodin - but I have books full of their erotic art already. *g*

And there were three wonderful Rembrandt etchings, (eg Het Ledikant which I have seen in real life, in Holland, and still treasure in postcard form. (I also have seen some great etchings of his of people relieving themselves. I love that guy.)

Okay, I wanted to post more, but my Photoshop just crashed for the fifth time (worryingly). I'll leave you with this, which I saw at the Hayward some years ago:

Francis Bacon, Two Figures, 1953

I was going to offer to send anyone who wanted more of the images, the proper ones with shagging in them by email, but seeing how every time I try to get into the image files right now I crash... perhaps later.

Edit: WTF? Photobucket objected to the Bacon? But there were no parts showing at all there! And you could hardly even see the nudity because of the painting technique! Okay, go to see the picture here.
Current Mood: [mood icon] mischievous

(Indulge your wild theories here)


Date:October 27th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for taking time to upload all of these wonderful images, even though your computer was being a nuisance! I really want to go to this exhibition now!

You're right about Juliao Sarmento. I checked out his website and particularly like the 'silhouette' style paintings. They're a bit like being a voyeur and watching people having sex in a tent, illuminated by a lamp inside the tent, don't you think? :) It's odd though - I find them interesting as 'abstracts' too; I like the spaces in between the dark areas. Nice find.

I was always a huge fan of Francis Bacon's work, and that particular image always made me feel a bit uncomfortable because of the violence implied in the sexual act. I do greatly admire his work though, and I don't suppose that painting is shown in public very often.

Thank you again! xXx
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2007 02:03 am (UTC)
The exhibition's on until January, so you have plenty of time.

They're a bit like being a voyeur and watching people having sex in a tent

Ooh, yes. Or under a tent made of sheets. Slighty grubby, stained sheets.

I have a bit of ambivelence towards Francis Bacon's work. The first time I came across it was in the Belfast Museum, when they put on a whole roomful of his stuff - every single one of which was a variation of almost the same portrait, over and over again, each one stripping the head further into the skull and bones and inner matter. There must have been a dozen of them and it blew me away. It was so exploratory about the nature of portraiture.

Other stuff of his, I like a lot less. As you say, it's very violent and depressing. Did you see the biopic of him with Derek Jacobi? I saw that film shortly after I saw the above picture, and it portrayed his relationship with his lover as quite dysfunctional and violent. Yeah, disturbing. Not only that, Jacobi in the film as Bacon was a dead ringer for an art tutor we had at the time, and my classmates and I who saw the film together came out a bit traumatised!

I'm going to post more Sarmento and send you email attachments of the rest when my Photoshop starts working again. I think I might have to reload it.
Date:October 28th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
Wow, that is very cool! Thanks for uploading this stuff. I also like the first artist. Those pieces are so mysterious.
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
Yes, tantalising and teasing. It's the first depiction of sex that's felt to me what it's actually like. You know? Because when you're doing it, you're so close to the other person you only see one body part at a time, and everything keeps moving and being covered again - by clothes, sheets, hair, other body parts. And sensation is centred on the hands, mouth and genitals. I really, really like them.

I'm curious about what's happening to your beautiful hair! I haven't been commenting recently on your journal, but I've been reading it.
Date:October 28th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC)
Yes, that's what I was thinking about those pictures--they capture how you are only concentrating on one part at a time.

I haven't done anything to my hair. Right now I'm thinking I'm just going to get a trim, because I am pretty sure that I don't have enough hair to donate (or the gonads to donate it.) But maybe I'll trim it for now and cut it off in a few months.

I'm feeling amazingly crappy right now. I wish I could throw myself into writing something, but it doesn't feel easy to do.
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
Aw! Don't write if you're too ill/tired/annoyed. I know us fanficcers tend to think of writing as the wondercure for all ills, but it also takes effort. You're well in time for your fest stuff. You could always sit back with a nice cup of something hot and a good book, or indulge in more Beatlemania if you haven't sickened yourself with that last Beatles overload.

I'm kind of glad you're not cutting all your hair. I'm jealous of it, as you know. I just dyed my own again, and it'll still never have the lovely brown sheen your does.
Date:October 30th, 2007 10:36 am (UTC)
les liaisons dangereuses is love.
[User Picture]
Date:November 2nd, 2007 06:26 am (UTC)
Yes, it's one of my favourite books. I've read it so many times.

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