Sexuality, Drugs & Subversive Art

A black-and-white photo peeks out at me in Rough Trade New York City.  I see the book cover, a high-contrast portrait with the name ARAKI scrawled across the front.  I am drawn from across the room.  One black-and-white photo spread inside : the veins of a leaf next to veins in a woman’s eyeball.  Each shot is a diary entry of an everyday moment.  The images are particles of a subculture unabashed about its sexuality in a way that reminds me of photographer Nan Goldin.  Artists engage in a constant combat against society shame of sexuality, drugs and subversive art, which the world’s got pinned under “shock theatrics.”  Nobuyashi Araki and Nan Goldin have unlearned these cultural constraints.
Araki’s shots are not candid but starkly-lit, studio portraits.  He works to capture yearnings in all forms – street scenes, his cat, women in BDSM poses, flowers and fruit.  In one shot, a woman in a kimono is sitting slouched, hair of vulva exposed with a cigarette in her hand.  Araki’s work is controversial, but he insists that a woman is most exposed through her face and not her naked body.  People offended by nudity in the shots are naïvely offended by life.  Artists need to portray intimate moments without the weight of religious ritual condemning or condoning the subjects in the frame.  A dark lizard approaches a light flower in an Araki shot; the flower is not only the lizard’s object of desire but a hint at mortality – beauty is ephemeral.  Desire is never satiated for long, so why not document the fleeting instants ?
“Page 38.” From upcoming collage book “Psychosexual.” Xerox & gouache. 2016. See more of my work in the gallery.

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