Friday, May 23, 2008

Penis Guy

Amanda Hess of the Washington City Paper has an interesting article about an even more interesting controversy at the current Artomatic.

Seems like Eduardo Rodriguez, a DC area artist who has been known as Artomatic’s "Penis Guy," had a rules issue in nearly rule-less AOM. Hess writes:

Why did Penis Guy take down his penis pictures? The controversy originated in the spot adjacent to Rodriguez’s now-abandoned space (at NW B1 on the 9th floor) where Moore Photography, a mother-daughter team, exhibit their work. Photos of flowers, butterflies, and fireworks are carefully matted and labeled with titles like “Reflections,” “Delectable,” and “Simply Elegant.” Rodriguez’s Cocksure Series was a bit different: neck-down nudes, mostly male, with message-inscribed torsos — easy to swallow reads one. Another: i am not hung.

The visual irony of a 15-year-old’s flora mounted alongside Rodriguez’s phallic extravaganza wasn’t part of Artomatic’s vision and juxtaposition sets up a vintage Artomatic drama. This one plays out in the following sequence:

• On Wednesday, May 7, the last day of Artomatic’s two-week installation period, Rodriguez enters the Artomatic building at 1200 First St. NE and begins hanging his Cocksure Series.

• The next day, Rodriguez reenters the building, officially closed to artists, to apply some finishing touches.

• In the meantime, another artist notices Rodriguez’s last-minute installation and notifies Moore Photography of the content. The Moore family, unimpressed by Penis Guy’s pedigree, complains to Artomatic without having seen Rodriguez’s work.

• Artomatic officials confront Rodriguez at his space. On the night before Artomatic’s opening, two hours before the building’s close, Rodriguez is asked to remount his penis pictures in another spot, away from a minor.
Read the whole article here.

Even a free for all extravaganza like AOM has a few rules and sounds like Rodriguez may have had his share of ignoring some of them, but I also think that artists should be able to work out things like this between themselves... and by artists I include the hardworking volunteers who run AOM, Rodriguez and the Mom & Daughter team.

So... someone in this mini drama is an asshole. A lot of the commenting masses in the CP think that Rodriguez is the asshole as do a lot of comments at the ArtDC forum... maybe they're right, maybe 80% right... maybe 50%.

The power of representational visual art to offend is immense; it is one of its key ingredients and an easy way to your 15 minutes of fame for a lot of artists. Over the years AOM has had what a lot of people may consider offensive art. I'm familiar with Rodriguez's imagery from past AOMs and it doesn't offend me at all.

But I have seen a lot of visual art imagery of erect and flaccid penises in my lifetime.

But I can also see a mother's desire in delaying her daughter's discovery of penis imagery and thus not desiring to be next to the "Penis Guy." And then again, she should also have known that AOM features all kinds of imagery - in my first visit I saw a lot of penises, a lot of vaginas, and a lot of tits. So her minor daughter is probably going to be exposed to them anyway.

But I can see that mom doesn't want to be "next" to a constant visual barrage of a male's reproductive organ in various states of excitement.

This should have been an easy thing to solve; the two neighboring artists should have worked this out and one of them should have moved. This year's AOM is in an amazing, huge, spacious environment and there are hundreds of great spots open.

If Mom & Daughter didn't want to be next to Rodriguez, then if Rodriguez is the "non confrontational" guy that he says he is, then for penis' sakes, take the fucking high road and move your penis photos to another spot. Rodriguez already screwed up by not following the set-up time rules to start with, so clearly set-up was not an issue for him.

If Mom & Daughter didn't want to be next to Rodriguez, then for daughter's sake take the fucking high road and move your nice photos to another spot.

Problem solved.

An event of the size of AOM always has mini dramas and controversy... some of us recall Kathryn Cornelius' closing her installation at an AOM a few years ago because of water issues and someone destroying JW Mahoney's swastikas on the wall.

Go see AOM and buy some art.

1 comment:

LG said...

I would assume, from this and other coverage, that the complaint from Ms. Moore was the "last nail in the coffin" for Mr. Rodriguez, considering his past as a rule breaker (in regards to his being asked to move). However, if Ms. Moore thinks that Mr. Rodriguez's work was the first image of a penis her 15 yr. old daughter has seen, she is delusional. I also assume that it's the Moore's first AOM and perhaps they had no idea what they were getting into.

I have to wonder that if Mr. Rodriguez did not have such a rebel rep, and Ms. Moore complained, what would have happened?

I agree with your assessment that the artists should have worked things out. I lean heavily towards the Moore's having to be the ones that should have moved. They were, after all, the only ones who complained about the penile art.

Perhaps AOM should require a signing statement that says all artists have the right to display their works without censorship from their peers (something like that). And maybe something along the lines of AOM having the right to ask you to leave/remove your work if you break the rules (and they keep your $90!). If AOM keeps growing (crosses fingers), it may come down to making a few more rules.