empathy

The Most (In)Appropriately Titled Show Of The Summer

With the title Sunsets and Pussy, Marianne Boesky Gallery’s summer exhibition is likely one of the oddest, most hilarious thematic pairings in a group show. Sunset and Pussy features four artists of various generations and styles who all provide a different perspective on the exhibition’s theme. From Lucien Smith’s tacky found panoramic postcards of sunsets to Betty Tompkins close-up and literally in-your-face “Pussy Painting #19” to Ed Ruscha’s text-based horizons and Piotr Uklański’s cut-paper collages, Sunsets and Pussy transcends the normally tired and unimaginative summer group exhibitions with an undeniably faithful portrayal of the show’s startling theme.

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In the press release, which could easily double as its own mind-boggling work of art, the gallery explains the combination of sunsets and pussy as “two classic themes of summer wonder – so saccharine and ubiquitous we forget their awesome power.” Never previously witnessing either sunsets or pussy described as “saccharine,” Sunsets and Pussy undoubtedly presents an unexpected art-viewing experience.

What's In A Name?

Despite the jarring press release and show title, Sunsets and Pussy is a quiet, subtle and beautiful exhibition. Rather than trashy and lurid, Sunsets and Pussy is a classy show that is more museum than sleazy strip club, which admittedly is slightly disappointing.

Cunt Landscape, 1969 by Betty Tompkins. Image courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York. © Betty Tompkins

Walking through the exhibition, the viewer cannot help but attempt to forge connections between the two seemingly disparate themes. As the only woman artist in the exhibition, Betty Tompkins’s drawing “Cunt Landscape” provides a clue in the combination of sunsets and pussy. Similar to Gustave Courbet’s infamous “L’Origine du Monde,” Tompkins's colorful drawing depicts a woman’s legs spread and merged with a mountainous landscape and horizon. Perhaps it is the sense of the unknowable, mysterious woman, the connection to “Mother Nature” or the literal horizon line, but looking at “Cunt Landscape,” suddenly the exhibition began to make more sense.

The Sunset Strip

Beyond Betty Tompkins’s female perspective in her drawing and selection of blue-gray paintings, the rest of Sunsets and Pussy comes from male artists. Polish artist Piotr Uklański’s cut-paper collages like “Untitled (TBD 3)” are some of the most fascinating works in the exhibition. While seemingly abstract and minimalist, Uklański’s collages – due to their Pepto-Bismol pink color and stealthily placed rips and tears – perfectly resemble pussies. Corresponding to the exhibition’s wild theme, Uklański’s collages even mirror the pinkish hue of a sunset.

Untitled (TBD1) by Piotr Uklanski. Image courtesy the artist, Gagosian Gallery, New York and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York. © Piotr Uklanski

Perhaps the most surprising artist in the exhibition is iconic text-based Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha. While Ruscha’s work is associated with perfect California sunsets and summer, his body of work never seemed to venture into the “pussy” territory of Marianne Boesky’s exhibition. However, his small, delicate and hilariously feminine drawing “Pussy” certainly counters that assumption.

Pussy, 1966 by Ed Ruscha. Private Collection. Image courtesy the artist, James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York.  © Ed Ruscha

Perusing the range of summer group shows in Chelsea during this summer gallery season, most group shows are lackluster, unimaginative selections of the gallery’s artists. However, the Marianne Boesky Gallery counters this trend with Sunsets and Pussy, a ridiculous yet reflective show that even manages to be in season.

Article by Emily Colucci