New York

Erotic Art

Sidney Janis Gallery

As advanced art has increasingly centered on the meaning of the observer’s act of looking, probing the nature of perception itself, retrograde art has tended to imitate it by parody. Erotic Art, at the Janis Gallery, represents such a parody. The awareness of one’s act of looking, which is heightened in confrontation with paintings by, say, Noland or Olitski is the subject of almost all the work in this show, but in a highly specialized sense. In Erotic Art one is confronted not with works of art but with occasions for voyeurism. As one is made to strain to piece together the images of nudes from the hanging tatters of Rosenquist’s Stellar Structure, it is the motivation for doing so that is on view. As the crowds in the gallery wait for the movie projector to throw an illusioned nude washing herself into view behind Whitman’s blank shower curtain, they are participating in a mass acting-out of behavior they have experienced before and which this new experience can neither illumine nor enlarge.

One abiding impression about the erotic art assembled by Mr. Janis is that it is overwhelmingly literary. George Segal’s Legend of Lot stands in the center of one of the rooms as a parable of the activities of the spectators. Drunken Lot, lying on the floor of the gallery, is mounted by one of his daughters while the other one looks on. Lot’s wife is turned away. A block of salt, she has become a monument to her own visual act, as Segal undoubtedly hopes, in a moment of pure literature, she will be to ours.

Rosalind Krauss