Magazine article The New Yorker

UNZIPPED; AT THE GALLERIES Series: 4/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

UNZIPPED; AT THE GALLERIES Series: 4/5

Article excerpt

The sound of two worlds colliding can be, and sometimes is, as harmonious as the sound of one hand clapping. And, indeed, on a recent Saturday night no jarring dissonances marred the densely crowded opening of "XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits," an exhibition by the photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, at the Mary Boone gallery, in Chelsea. Artists, collectors, literati, and other art-world regulars appeared to mingle seamlessly with adult-movie producers and directors, agents, and quite a few of the performers whose full-color likenesses, many of them life-size (or almost) and half of them frontally nude, should have stopped conversation in its tracks but, for some reason, did not. The thirty portraits reflected a democratic cross-section of the adult-film industry--female and male, gay and straight, white and black, young and not so young. Each star was represented twice, clothed and unclothed, assuming the same pose for both shots--a device that Greenfield-Sanders says he borrowed from Goya's clothed and unclothed paintings of his eighteenth-century maja. Unlike Goya, however, Greenfield-Sanders excised from his images any hint of pornographic suggestiveness: no erotic poses or come-hither looks, no parted lips, no discreetly listed Web sites. We are in an art gallery, these portraits proclaimed, so this must be art.

Formalist standards of art criticism are in decline these days, and will not be applied here. Let's just say that Jenna Jameson, the reigning goddess of porn cinema, looks considerably more convincing nude than clothed, while the opposite may be true of Tera Patrick. Also, that Briana Banks, who agreed to Greenfield-Sanders's suggestion that she adopt the pose of Cezanne's "Bather," makes a very good try but doesn't quite succeed, and that Ron Jeremy, whose resume shows that he has appeared in "more than 1,750 films," could handle the "Laocoon" without batting an eye. Copies of "XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits," the book, were on sale at the opening, with texts by Gore Vidal, John Malkovich, A. M. Homes, John Waters, Salman Rushdie, Lou Reed, and other famous moralists; the stars graciously autographed the portraits in it, and engaged in lively conversations about the empowering experience of taking charge of their own sexuality. …

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