A sexually explicit art show that features paintings and sculptures of female genitalia is not intended to be pornographic but rather to provoke an emotional response in the audience, according to the artist.
The exhibit, entitled “Coney Island of the Mind” by artist Tim Youd and set to open at a new Chinatown gallery on Saturday, was inspired by a racy passage from author Henry Miller’s 1938 novel "Tropic of Capricorn."
Many of Miller's provocative works were banned in the US and in the 1960s led to a series of obscenity trials. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in pushing boundaries and blending literary forms. Youd's works offer a visual interpretation of Miller's vision.
"It’s not porn,” Youd said. “I hope people will recognize that there’s more to it than that.”
"Coney Island" is one of two inaugural exhibits at the new Coagula Curatorial Gallery, the brainchild of acclaimed editor and art critic Mat Gleason, whose popular art journal has influenced the Los Angeles art scene for 20 years.
“I wanted people to come in an have a memorable experience not just visually,” Gleason told Southern California Public Radio. “I wanted them to have an emotional response to things.”
As Youd and Gleason hung the exhibit last weekend, passersby peeked through the gallery’s open door and had a generally positive reaction, Youd said, though there was the occasional critic.
“Some people are going to be uncomfortable looking at a 9-foot vagina,” Youd said.
Miller’s uneven writing style, which Youd compares to a carnival, is fundamental to the style of Youd’s sculptures, and inspired his paintings, which depict women’s lower body parts in a natural and almost impressionistic style.
Youd expects hundreds at Saturday’s opening, drawn by both the artwork and by Gleason’s influence within Los Angeles’ art scene.
The exhibit channels the same incendiary spirit characteristic of Gleason’s Coagula Art Journal, which he began publishing 20 years ago with the intent to provide a spunky alternative to boring art writing.
Celebrating the publication’s birthday, the exhibit also marks a decade of collaboration between Youd and Gleason.
Early in their friendship, Gleason suggested Youd read French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s "Journey to the End of the Night."
The novel, among others by authors Phillip Roth and Henry Miller, became the impetus for years of Youd’s work focused on female genitalia.
The gallery will also show an exhibit entitled “Beuys in the Basement,” featuring photographs of performance artist Michael Bueys from 1949 by Michael Montfort.
The exhibit begins Saturday and runs through June 3. The gallery, located at 977 is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.
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