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Foucault’s “repressive hypothesis” supposes forbidden pleasure makes sex feel transgressive and taboo. So it’s appropriate that The Dick Pic Show, curated by Katie Bode and Kenton Parker, is installed in Chimento Gallery’s small, brick-walled bathroom—a fun, lewd locale that suggests a type of kinky voyeurism or public sexual activity. Hung salon-style, the show is neither overwhelming nor precious, despite its long roster of 37 artists. The contemporary dick pic—solicitous, intimate, warranted or unwarranted—is the pariah of online dating, just as the symbol of the phallus is ubiquitous and omnipotent in art historical contexts. From subtle innuendos to brazen representations, each artist’s perspective on the trope of the dick pic reflects the notion that sexuality is fluid, subjective, and highly personal.
Many works consider the dick pic as portraiture. Sarah Weber recounts her ex-boyfriend’s insecurity about size in Jon’s Dick (2017), a narrative text printed and hung next to the toilet. Julie Weitz’ Oligarch (2017) directly references the phallocentrism of ancient visual tradition in a C-print of a blue-lit plaster penis jutting upwards against a background of Ionic and Corinthian columns. There is little left to the imagination throughout the exhibit though some works are more suggestive than literal: An elongated dinosaur neck rendered in porcelain in Untitled (2013) by Tin Nguyen merely implies shape while the anthropomorphic Untitled (2017) by Kenny Scharf is plainly a peter drawn with black sharpie ink on paper.
Though the premise would seem boyish or even aggressive, The Dick Pic Show is neither sex negative nor positive. Rather it acknowledges the utterly normal nature of sex. In contrasting the preciousness of penile depictions of the past with the understanding that jpegs of dicks float wild and free in the digital cloud (milieu?), the curators encapsulate a cultural threshold and suggest the dick is more of a mortal than a god.
The Dick Pic Show runs June 3-July 22, 2017 at Chimento Contemporary (622 South Anderson Street, Space 105, Los Angeles, CA 90023).