For better, and often worse, porno and art are not always mutually exclusive mediums. Consider, or maybe you already have some late night, Behind the Green Door or The Devil in Miss Jones, adult features which sought to combine artful drama with the popular sight of human beings in congress. Still, ears prick up when the producers of such hits as Ten Man Cum Slam Parts 1-5 and Honey, I Blew Up Your Pussy sponsor an art show.
Promising porn star bartenders and a “special performance” at midnight, Kick Ass Pictures filled their warehouse with more than unsold copies of Specs Appeal and Chica Boom at the second Kick Ass Group Art Show in Boyle Heights. Surprisingly, men who don’t consider their hands their sole lover and a major cadre of brave women crammed into the space to view the work of four contemporary artists, along with eyefuls of T&A and bellyfuls of cheap hooch served by cheaper hoochies.
Perhaps the most shocking consideration in the evening was the fact that the art was actually more titillating than the adult entertainment. The four starlet bartenders, playful and doe-eyed non-names, did their best by spitting flirtatious lines like, “Can I grab you a Hiney?” with the same looks reserved for awaiting a money shot.
Meanwhile, Andrea Young’s smooth paintings and the photo-collages of Patrick Hammerlein were a total turn-on. Young combines smooth contours with cartoonish images of coquettes engaging in various odd routines. Her work was quick to sell, including the prize canvas of a smiling, decapitated woman with skull n’crossbones peaking out of each corner. Hammerlein imbues his photos with soul and effortless backstory, snapping the random and interesting denizens of Los Angeles and often adding them to his massive yellowed collages and digital prints.
Midnight struck and the crowd hummed with expectations for the promised special performance. The porn-meisters delivered thrills solely of the vicarious variety; the whole room wondering how the girls do what they do so willingly. The routine consisted of the previously mentioned ho-patrol stripping from their bathing suits to their birthday suits. A naked hula-hoop contest ensued, with men crowding the front like it was Score’s. Others pretended the sight of naked women did nothing for them, clutching their girlfriends and dates a little closer than usual.
Art did not get the short end of the stick, however. Kick Ass’ commitment to the artists was evident with the promise that 100% of the purchase price would be going to the artists’ pockets. Silvia Spross, who despite her alliterative name has never starred in a Kick Ass Production, showed canvases alternately brooding and cheerful, bursting with light and movement, as in her faint painting of a full moon-like spot, the swirling light around its orb the actual center of attention. Christopher Kuhn turns consumerism on its head by defacing oversize fashion ads with dabbles and doodles, reminiscent of a Kaws, Klee, Miro and Pollock quadruple penetration on a Gucci model.
Mark Kulkis, president of Kick Ass Pictures, an art collector and member of LACMA says, “I go to many gallery shows and see a lot of cross-influence between porno and art. Jeff Koons’ work, for example, often blurs the line between the two.”
Like the event itself, Kulkis is not what you would expect from a porn entrepreneur. A warm, amiable guy, he drops words like “erudite” in conversation and is avidly pro-artist. “Getting people into a gallery is half the battle. Porn gets people interested, plus I’m in a position to bring in people who have a lot of money from the business. I take no commission, and it’s exciting to see an upcoming artist make a $2,500 sale like one did this night.”
Kick Ass is known for its fun and post-modernly urbane aesthetic, which makes it a natural candidate for raising the culture bar in the porn world. “I often put jokes in our films just for myself and anyone else who might get them. Often, our films work best for those who are college-educated.”
The artist Hammerlein agrees the event was a success. “The show was a wonderful experience for me. Sales were good but the response was greater – so many people told me how they connected with my work – it was a total ego boost. I was surprised by the wide variety of people attending. It was only my second showing and I was a bit nervous. The naked girls seemed to take most of the pressure off of me and the other artists though.”
“Low Art supporting High Art,” said the invite. Work was low-priced, the promise of flesh ever mounting. Most of us think artful porn movies suck anyway. But Kick Ass Pictures, whose films promise no condoms and no fake breasts, is doing a service by putting porn and art together in the right way. Whatever it takes to turn the next generation into the next Ghettys. The next show is coming up this Friday April 22nd. Check www.kickassartshow.com for details.
By Hadley Tomicki