Critics’ Picks

View of “Erik Scollon,” 2010. From left to right: The Prosperous Plug, 2010; Mini Gimp Knob, 2010; Collected Cleaned and Displayed in Ostentatious Palaces, 2010; Trade Name: Golden Princess, 2010; Poor Taste Plug, 2010.

San Francisco

Erik Scollon

Romer Young Gallery
1240 22nd St.
July 16 - August 14

In titling his smart, saucy exhibition “The Urge,” Erik Scollon telegraphs his interests in aesthetic and biological drives. Thankfully, his control of his materials and impulses is exacting and mindful of pleasure. The dozens of porcelain objects, displayed in a nearly retail manner on unfinished wooden shelves, are for the most part sex toys (with accessories) created as ceramics and embellished with a free range of ornamentation—witness a Delftware-style butt plug, and a set of exquisite square-bodied, Zen/Minimalist vessels with cylindrical necks perfectly proportioned to hold braceletlike forms, as if a cock ring–toss carnival game. As arranged along the wall, the works become increasingly baroque (see the metallic and floral glazed Collected Cleaned and Displayed in Ostentatious Palaces, 2010, a shimmery cast fisting dildo with as many layers of adornment as political subtexts and and an ample nod toward utilitarian functionality).

Reminding us that the perspective is queer are a number of thick little male figures, with removable hoods, all resembling burly gay bear versions of ancient Egyptian Shawabti figurines, talismanic fetishes intended to protect their wealthy deceased charges in the afterlife. In fact, all of Scollon’s objects are fetishes, in all meanings of the term. They are covetable for their handcrafted design allure, for their sexual use, and for the meaning encoded in ornamentation. The ambiguous zone between interpretation and use provides much of this show’s appeal. When the checklist reveals that a series of three corked vessels contain, respectively, vodka, bourbon, and lube, it’s clear this is work ripe with versatility.