Picasso drew and painted plenty of sphincters in his perverse erotic fantasias, but the necessary but generally unglamorous muscle doesn't get a lot of face time in fine art—not even in nudes. The provocatively named Cock Gallery is correcting that with a show that's all about sphincters and defecation. Debuting at First Thursday, Attraction and Repulsion is a two-person exhibition at the Everett Station Lofts.
On one side, Arthur Johnstone, a recent graduate of Reed College, shows a suite of colored-pencil drawings on paper. Channeling cervix-gazing sex educator Annie Sprinkle, Johnstone turned a hand mirror on his own nether eye, and the resulting depictions join the scant ranks of anal self-portraits. For other works, he used his girlfriend as a live model, perused Google image searches for "sphincter," and gathered source material from sex websites and the gay fisting community. The drawings' titles speak colorfully of that sunburst of wrinkles, known to us all but seldom touched by the light of day: Hairy Spread, Red Eye, Prolapsed Pleasure?, Puckered and Bleached. While the drawings do not portend the next John Singer Sargent, they are inventively rendered, chromatically nuanced and, we dare say, transcendent of their subject matter.
On the opposite-facing wall, Zach Speert displays ceramic sculptures inspired by defecation and decay, loosely based on fungi, which feast on all things dead and rotting. With their trumpet-shaped spores and sprouting, turdlike growths, these mycological/proctological hybrids are precisely what you don't want to see on your colonoscopy report. While they are eye-pleasingly sinuous in form, the sculptures are regrettably sloppy in execution, particularly in the slapdash manner Speert has affixed the shapes to their bases. Had he taken more time and care in his craftsmanship, the extra investment would have paid off significantly.
Gallery director Paul Soriano is an artist and volunteer active in Portland's LGBTQ community. "The idea for Cock Gallery came from the limited opportunities I've encountered for my own work, which is too homoerotic for most galleries to risk," he says. "It was a perfect opportunity to show subject matter other galleries might shy away from—and maybe have a little fun as well."
Soriano has ambitious aims. For next month's show, he's featuring never-before-exhibited erotic prints by renowned photographer Paul Dahlquist. With Attraction and Repulsion and the upcoming Dahlquist show, Cock Gallery is off to a running start in its mission to showcase transgressive work.
SEE IT: Attraction and Repulsion is at Cock Gallery, 625 NW Everett St., No. 106, 552-8686. Through March 31.