San Francisco

Joel-Peter Witkin

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Over the past six years, Joel-Peter Witkin has gotten a sudden wide reputation as a sort of upstart Rasputin of the silver print. But, as even this limited traveling retrospective (40 prints from 1974 to 1985) reveals, his stylistic progress has actually been slow and fitful, and his subject matter—an eclectic theosophy with blaring sexual overtones—has developed apace. Witkin works in series. The series have titles such as “Contemporary Images of Christ,” 1970–74, “Evidences of Anonymous Atrocities,” 1975–77, and “Journeys of the Mask,” 1982–. He also works from preliminary drawings, one of which, a pencil sketch for the furled pose of the androgyne in Helena Fourment, 1984, is included in the show What are not included are Witkin’s more pointedly violent scenes of bodily penetration and abuse (Arm Fuck, for instance, or Testicle Stretch with the Possibility of a Crushed Face, both from

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