Friday night at NeueHouse, after slinking past a seemly-looking Powerpoint presentation on the first floor, I headed towards the basement where far more titillating images were on view for the opening of the explicit B-side of “In Your Dreams,” organized by curator Marina T. Schindler for the Spring/Break art fair. The other, less-NSFW half of the show was displayed at the Skylight at Moynihan Station along with the rest of the fair.
“Transaction was the overall theme of the [Spring/Break] fair, and all of us interpreted it differently. At first I was like, ‘What do I want to do?’ and I thought, ‘Sex is great,” Schindler said, laughing.
So how did the Skylight, located inside the James A. Farley post office, end up with works like Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois’s abstract watercolor painting And so I kissed you, whereas NeueHouse was allotted the likes of Nobuyoshi Araki’s photos of hentai bondage?
“There are stipulations as to what you can and can’t show in a government building,” explained Schindler, in between frequent interruptions from admirers. “I don’t know exactly what the stipulations are, but they’re very cautious. And it’s hard because I don’t know where the line is. What makes one photograph of a naked body ok, but another one not ok? I’ve had things removed from my Instagram. I posted some photos of Ryan McGinley’s last show, and they got taken off in like 20 minutes.”
There was a muted, speakeasy-like vibe to the event, with works—mostly photographs, illustrations, and paintings—arranged in a homey manner amongst couches and end tables. A notable exception was artist Alex McQuilkin’s video “Fucked,” displayed in a small viewing room off to one side, depicting the artist wholly focused on applying lipstick despite being in flagrante delicto.
Monsieur X’s photos of naked women, snapped during the 1920s, were particularly fascinating. “Monsieur X is known as being the first porn photographer in the world. I just read an article about him last week and I was like, ‘This is so serendipitous!’” Schindler commented as we looked at a photo of a flapper flipping her skirt at the camera. Schindler also included a couple of 1990s-era photos of all-American-looking strippers—headshots, she told me—priced at only $200 each.
Many of the works were credited anonymously. “I worked with a bunch of different galleries for this show, and when you tell a gallerist that you’re doing a show about sex, they’re always like, ‘Ooh, look at this secret drawer that I have,’” Schindler told me. “That’s why a lot of the photographers in this part of show are anonymous. They are just things these galleries had collected, and I just found them to be very dynamic. I mostly feature emerging artists in my shows, and then I bring in some established artists into the mix. But for this show, I wasn’t finding contemporary work that seemed dynamic. I thought it all super-gratuitous, or sensationalist. I don’t mind cock and pussy, show it all to me! But there needs to be some intelligence, some sort of purpose—or no purpose, if it’s just a really spectacular artwork. I wasn’t finding much from young artists, which is why I bridged into more historical, established artists.” She nodded towards 1940s pin-up illustrations by painter Alberto Vargas.
“I wanted to create a diverse perspective on sex, showing things that were not only super-explicit but also more subtle and delicate. When I think about sex, I don’t just think about romance. I think about kink, I think about roughness, I think about a lot.”
However, when I asked if Schindler had heard of tentacle fetishes during a discussion about the many Japanese works displayed in the show, she exclaimed, “No! Tell me more about the octopuses.”