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Tastefully Erotic

Works at the Art City show examine matters of the heart and libido.


Eros traditionally has his work cut out for him in February. The Greek Cupid has been known to spend extra attention locally at Art City. Here, Valentine's Day becomes the seasonal excuse to host an annual erotic art show.

This may not be one of those exhibitions for which you will want to load up the kids in the van. Still, the general mode and focus of the art remain tasteful more or less. That wasn't always the case in past years, when some work crossed over that fuzzy, subjective line separating aesthetics and prurient excess.

Some of the best stuff here takes discreet routes to matters of the heart and libido. Gordon Punt's "50 Drawings" surveys the human form in terms of disarmingly simple, but affecting, line drawings, in and out of states of erotic activity, but always au naturale. Bill Dantsch's various ceramic pieces allude to erotica via the nebulous imagery on his plates, but only as subtle elements in a whole which refers to culture both modern and ancient.

One corner of the gallery appears designated for genitalia. Taras Tulek's "Wrapped Vulva" is a relief piece of fabric art that has less to do with Christo's famous wrapping schemes than presenting a coyly covered, and very specific, anatomical feature. Below it, Alan Sailer's "Once in a Lifetime" is a tableaux with a flashing penis hidden behind little red curtains in a box, a reference to the tawdriness of the porn industry.

Sculptor and Art City "Mayor" Paul Lindhard gets into the act with his "Yoni Pony," a strange, mutant but plainly phallic concoction in translucent, skin-like alabaster. Lindhard has been doing some intriguing work in the cracks between figurative and abstract sculpture in recent years, but he is unleashing a playful side here. Back in the gallery, Lindhard's audacious "Love Seat" invites visitors to ride the art, conveying a sense of good, not-necessarily-clean fun.

The tension of opposites and of dreamlike environments is played up in Ray Hennessy's manipulated photography. Composites of nudes and other contrasting visuals, such as a burned-out building, trigger an exciting curiosity. Curiosity of another sort visits Lea Shadbum's "As One," a color photograph of two female nudes in the familiar haven of a photo studio, but engaged in cryptic activity under a large, gauzy fabric.

Compared to the show-all tendencies afloat in the gallery, Don Ulrich's busy, kinetic abstractions evoke more the feeling than the apparatus of erotic sensation.


Charles Fulmer's delightfully ambiguous assemblage piece, "Fetish," wallows in its own telling paradox. A faux artifact, appearing like an ancient tribal talisman with a vaguely phallic shape, is coming out of a wooden packing crate, suggesting a coveted object newly arrived. The work seems to comment on the different modes of what constitutes fetish, and how private, even secret, desire, whether of the collector or the fan of erotic exotica, determines behavior.

Different tactics and media are seen in the several works of Rika Traxler, but a commonality is the fetching, almost folk-ish way with figures and a sensuousness of form. In the large painting "Anticipation," for example, a woman appears half-undressed and also partly unfinished by the painter, exemplifying in surreal visual terms the emotional quality of its title.

Anticipation may, in the end, be an underrated hallmark of eroticism and erotic art. In a culture evermore fixed on instant payoffs, the art of waiting may be a last taboo.


"Forbidden Fruits," through March 25 at Art City II, 33 Peking St., Ventura. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed.-Sun.; 648-1690.


Josef Woodard, who writes about art and music, can be reached by e-mail at

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