Saturday, April 14, 2007

Joe Brainard: The Erotic Works

I visited the Tibor de Nagy Gallery for the first time today to view what TimeOUT magazine called the “minimasterpieces” of American artist, Joe Brainard (1942-94). The works, mostly collages, are small, many of which are about the size of playing cards. Playing cards appear as a motif in the exhibited works, as well as roses, butterflies, matchbooks, and hearts.

I did not care very much for the drawings of the male torso tattooed with roses, doves, anchors, names of lovers and of poets Brainard, a poet himself, loved. The drawings are decidedly off-hand, and formally uninteresting. Some of the collages are banal. In one collage of a male nude, a pear take the place of the scrotum and the word HEINZ stretches over the shaft of the penis. Perhaps it is a jokey reference to Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, but the joke just makes one groan.

A series of collages, “Homage to Keith,” begins provocatively with his lover’s pubic hair and semen but quickly turns into a collection of clichés: a vase of roses, letter and envelope, alphabet soup made up of the letters in KEITH, two hands on which are tattooed the words, “TRUE LOVE.” Except for one collage suggesting that Keith was an actor, the series does not show what is individual about this man. The images depicting this true love are either generic or hide an impenetrably private meaning behind them.

Collages I did like combine cutouts from bodybuilder magazines such as Physique Pictorials with the eroticism of briefs.

I also liked a more abstract work: a white brief drawn on the top flap of an opened used matchbook colored white. The rectangle of the matchbook is divided by three bands: the sandpaper, the matchbook spine, and two blue lines above the brief.

Other works I found online, not in this exhibition, actually look more interesting:

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