Location: Main Street Gallery, Nashville, USA
Detail: 4 – 28 Nov 2021
Commissioner: Laura Hutson Hunter of Adult Contemporary
‘It’s difficult to dislodge sex from science fiction in art — consider the horny surrealism of Salvador Dalí and Man Ray, or the sensual Afrofuturist visions of Chris Ofili and Juliana Huxtable. Especially in the wake of a devastating global disaster, the pull toward sci-fi and future-gazing can be extremely seductive.
That’s the premise behind Futurephilia, the third installment in the Scene’s Adult Contemporary series of art exhibitions, which I curate.
The exhibit, which opens Nov. 4 at East Nashville’s Main Street Gallery, features 13 artists whose work involves fantasizing about the future.
Tennessee-based artist Benjy Russell has long incorporated ideas of science fiction and sex into his photography. In fact, Russell’s photographs in the exhibition are taken from various points in his career, and each fits hand-in-glove with Futurephilia’s themes. His artist’s statement includes a line that could stand in for the exhibition’s mission statement: “By creating a fictionalized version of the future we desire, we take the first step toward its existence.”
Chicago-based artist Dutes Miller’s paintings and sculptures share a similar vision: to utilize queer sex-positivity as a form of resistance against the dominant culture. Miller’s work includes futuristic glory holes — adorned with tendrils of synthetic hair, twine and horns — that are like props from a forgotten Cronenberg film.
The paintings of Nashville-based artist David Onri Anderson often include sexual elements — an apple core or a banana can take on decidedly carnal symbolism — and those are even more evident in his figurative work. His painting “Mosaiah, Diamond Being” depicts a monumental celestial goddess, all crystals and rainbow LSD tracers. And while legendary painter Judith Linhares doesn’t sexualize the trio of wild women in her 2006 painting “Star-Light,” the naked figures gaze at the moon in the sky like they know something we don’t. Mexico City-based artist Carlos Rodriguez takes a more literal view of lunar infatuation — his round-edged male figure, a recurring motif in his work, embraces the moon like a lover.
Dutch artist Anton van Dalen’s two drawings, both part of a 1983 series called Science Fiction, depict robots with cannons for breasts gliding past planets and commercial logos in space. A similar narrative can be seen in Nashville-based painter and longtime TSU professor Samuel Dunson’s diptych, which was painted specifically for this show.
Both the wallpaper and carpet by New York-based artist Liz Collins were originally part of the New Museum’s 2017 exhibition Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon. Both works are based on a grid of film stills from the 1982 cult film Liquid Sky. At the moment a character experiences euphoria, brought on by either sex or drugs, the special effects ramp up to create a kind of visual equivalent of slurred speech — the image freezes, then quickly morphs into abstract shapes in Day-Glo colors followed by a black screen.
The triptych of self-portraits by U.K.-based artist Siena Barnes follows a similar color-filled abstraction, and is based on the artist’s research into the shadow side of the feminine through sacro-sexual archetypes.
New collages from New York-based artist James Gallagher place figures on top of images of wires that recall science-fiction stories and the human nervous system, using scraps of paper to build bodies that seem at once intimate and anonymous. Fellow New Yorker Rafael Santiago is also a collage artist, but his works appropriate images of graphic sex from vintage porn magazines. By layering them over and under digitally altered floral photography, he creates a new narrative that invokes everything from biblical mythology to the “Silence=Death” posters of the ACT UP movement.
Philadelphia-based artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase chose portraits that showcase the otherworldly influence of queer Afrofuturist icons Kevin Aviance and Abdu Ali. Frances Waite’s drawings take a darker but no less erotic perspective. Her intricately rendered works on paper imagine what she’s called horny postapocalyptic meltdowns, but there’s always an undercurrent of humor. The title of one drawing would have made a great Futurephilia subtitle: “Finally Found My Kink: The Looming Threat of Human Extinction.”
There are elements of the technosexual, the cosmic, the Afrofuturist and the postapocalyptic — but whether utopian or dystopian, the futures that Futurephilia envisions are filled with provocative ideas and great sex. We have something to live for after all.’
Laura Hutson Hunter bylines for Vice, Art in America