The Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival is an annual presentation from the Tom of Finland Foundation.
For this, the 23rd edition of the festival — held on 6–7 October 2018 — the Foundation is focusing on the art of collecting — part of its mission to preserve, protect, and promote erotic art.
Here’s a selection of some of the artists that will be featured in the festival.
We want to hear your opinion
The neo-pop erotica of pop-porn
Five artists who aren’t afraid to get sexual.
Matt Myers, who creates art under the name Eronin, is the driving force behind Pop-Porn – a new show that will be presented in Brooklyn by the MF Gallery.
As well as work from Eronin, the show will also feature pieces from Fernando Carpaneda, Ellen Stagg, Martina Secondo Russo, and Anna Park – all exploring the theme of neo-pop erotica.
I caught up with Matt Myers for a behind-the-scenes look at what we can expect from Pop-Porn.
When did you start to see your work as Pop-Porn or Neo-Pop Erotica?
I think it was around 2012 – I was appropriating images of Japanese porn stars directly from film stills I captured myself. The close-up view of faces in ecstasy gave me a revelation that they stood up to any Andy Warhol portrait of a movie star or celebrity.
I deliberately treated these images taken from a low-brow source as High Art, just as many of the original Pop Artists did with common everyday items.
It was at that time I made a Pop-Art connection, but I didn’t label it as Pop-Porn or Neo-Pop Erotica until a few years ago.
How would you define or describe Pop-Porn or Neo-Pop Erotica?
Pop-Porn is the name I gave the show. It’s a simple, catchy, hyphenated name to bring two distinct cultural trends – Pop-Art and Porn, or Erotic art – into one realm.
I coined Neo-Pop Erotica as a movement by a wider range of erotic artists that use erotica in a Pop-Art style. Some artists working in this genre are well known and mainstream, like Ben Frost, John Currin, Mel Ramos, Lisa Yuskavage, and Thomas Ruff, while others are more or less on the fringe, like Delmas Howe, Victor Gadino, and John John Jesse.
You’ve invited four artists to present their work with you at this show – what are some of the threads that connect the work of the five of you?
I wanted to feature artists who use both explicit and implicit sexuality in their work, but not cookie-cutter images of penises and vaginas. I’ve been in many erotic shows in the US and early this year in London’s first erotic show, and I see a very low bar for inclusion.
I sought out artists who had very distinct styles and a great range from explicit to implicit.
Anna Park’s mysterious charcoals depict a hidden, dark sexuality – it’s more of a psychological erotica compared to Martina Secondo Russo’s Italian Bathing Beauties, that show a more visceral fleshy sensuality. Ellen Stagg forms a very close relationship with her models, many of whom are adult performers or fetish models, and it spills into her intimate depictions of them. Fernando is a veteran to erotic art, and finds very fascinating ways of combining his own punk counter-culture lifestyle with highly erotically charged art. My own work has close ties to Japanese Shunga from over a century ago, but is contemporary in my use of current Japanese porn stars.
While each of us work in very diverse styles, there is a common thread of being rooted in popular culture.
Is Pop-Porn the kind of work that is going to find a home on the wall of people’s homes? Or is there still an illicit edge to this style of art?
I think in the US especially, there is less tolerance for explicit art in the general public, in comparison to European, Latin, and Asian countries. Here in the US, sexuality is largely ignored and never emphasised in early education, condemned in religious and political circles, and rarely thought of as normal unless you pick up magazines promoting the fundamental joys of sex.
But there is a hardcore group of collectors who relish the open-minded free spirits of erotica and will buy it for their collections.
Fernando Carpaneda is widely sought after to collect his erotic sculptures and paintings, as well as Ellen Stagg for her mixed media and photography. My new watercolours will definitely raise some eye-brows because it crosses the barrier using more explicit sources.
Could these be hung prominently on the wall of people’s homes? Yes, to a small percentage of very dedicated erotica aficionados, but my goal in Pop-Porn is to raise erotic art up to a higher standard so it’s more acceptable.
How does Pop-Porn reflect the evolution of erotica and erotic art?
Just like Warhol, Wesselmann, Lichtenstein, Ramos, and Koons have drawn from everyday images from mass media and popular culture to create Pop-Art, Pop-Porn also draws from mass media, but from more provocative sources. It’s the goal of Pop-Porn to elevate what some consider as obscene, and transcend low-brow views of what is crude sexuality and what constitutes as valid art.
Titian, Klimpt, Courbet – some of the greatest masters of art – had to fight the social, political and religious doctrines that stifled the inherent beauty of eroticism. Pop-Porn is a platform that I hope will become a movement. I want to see it take off and become more of a trend in art, and just as acceptable as Pop-Art is to the general public.
What do you hope that people feel when looking at the collection of work presented at this exhibition?
I hope they will come with open minds and to open their minds. The owners of MF Gallery – Martina and Frank Russo – have long been defenders of counter-culture, therefore their patrons may already be wired to expect something unusual, but I’d like them to see and experience erotic art not as a novelty, but as part of a cultural movement. And, more importantly, an essential part of themselves.
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