What has sex got to do with serially produced art? Catering to a wider audience, multiples give license to artists to be marvelously obscene. Incorporating sexually explicit imagery and critically engaging with the erotic, editions have the potential to be highly subversive as well as ripping up the conventions of gender and sex.
Depictions of women in suggestive poses and revealing outfits—a longstanding feature of the male dominated Western artistic canon—remain central motifs in Kenneth Price's Topless Bikini, 1981 and Jeff Koons' Girl with Dolphin and Monkey, 2006. Parodying a pose often fetishized in porn magazines Price's nude is shown tantalizingly playing with the strings holding up her bikini bottoms. The slight sneer around her full mouth and critical cocking of the eyebrow, however, denies the viewer the satisfaction of freely consuming her nakedness, as if in judgment of our voyeuristic delight.
Koons' piece also self-consciously reflects on pornography, undercutting the potential eroticism of the image by having his provocatively garbed model straddling animal balloons instead of a sexual partner, a reference to his own wildly successful repertoire of balloon works. The feminine protagonist is essentially making love to the work of the artist, the whole scene functioning as a form of self-congratulatory masturbation.
A buff male model replaces the Botticelli’s Venus for Yinka Shonibare's work Kaleidoscope, 2014, a parody of the sexual objectification of the female form. The object is clearly reminiscent of a dildo, with the playful implication that art might also act as a visual sex toy, giving immediate sensual pleasure to those who view it. Similarly, Anish Kapoor's Reverse Perverse invites viewers in with a stylized vagina provocatively installed on a pink flesh-colored door. The user has no chance of avoiding replicating the sex act by following the door's basic function and going in and out.
These editions and multiples operate on the level of critical commentary, using sexually suggestive imagery to explore and play with gender norms. Penises and breasts are cited with reference to art history and popular culture, pastiching porn magazine material and inciting our prudish instincts. Ultimately these ironically raunchy works invert our conceptions of porn styling and eroticism, and mock our visual foolishness.
Shonibare's Kaleidoscope, 2014 is available to buy now on fineartmultiple—click here to find out more.