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Shunga …the Japanese erotic print

 

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While studying the Bubb Kuyper catalogue it struck me that the genitals of both male and female are depicted far too large and are highly exaggerated. This made me wonder…is this wishful thinking of the japanese men in general or is it to draw attention to the print and the action within. I found an excellent article on Shunga…. The art of the erotic japanese prints by the British Museum and they have a clear point of view:

The genitals of both sexes are so exaggerated in shunga that it leaves literally nothing to the imagination. A wall text quotes Tachibana no Narisue, an artist in 1254: “The Old Masters… depict the size of ‘the thing’ far too large… If it were depicted the actual size there would be nothing of interest. For that reason don’t we say that art is fantasy?”.

Despite a similar preoccupation with the humorous side of sex, shunga has a far greater artistic pedigree than seaside postcards. Whereas Thomas Rowlandson is unusual in the British artistic tradition for producing erotic prints, shunga prints were an expected part of Japanese artists’ portfolios.

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Once viewers get past the shock of seeing such explicit scenes, other details begin to emerge – particularly the beautifully rendered robes worn (or, more accurately, half-worn) by the couples. Full nudity appears to be rare, and the gorgeous colours and designs of traditional Japanese costume frame the prints with sensuous folds.

Early versions were hand painted on scrolls, some of which are highly exquisite and expensive. Twelve Erotic Scenes in Edo (circa 1790), by Hosoda Eishi, is particularly beautiful, with gold leaf and gilding used liberally as decoration on both sides of the scroll. 

By 1765, the perfection of full colour woodblock printing methods in Edo made shunga available for the masses, and it was during this period that the conventions of the genre became more firmly established. It was also during this period that the samurai elite began to censor shunga – but for its political, not erotic content. 

Shunga presented a threat to Japan’s strict social hierarchies by depicting sexual congress between different social groups; some books may even have revealed secret court gossip. However, the authorities did not strictly enforce the ban, meaning that shunga flourished under the radar.

It might be easy to dismiss Shunga as a sensationalist exhibition, but the work displayed reveals a fascinating insight into a private world. It’s one both familiar and strange to us.

Sexual life is revealed as loving, passionate, comforting, rough, illicit – even violent at times. Despite existing in a fantasy world, shunga artists manage to reveal a great deal about our common humanity.

www.ftn-books.com has a book on the modern Shunga experience available.

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Nobuyoshi Araki (1940)

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Araki has published over 400 books. He is known primarily for his photography that blends eroticism and bondage in a fine art context. But where he first was a rather obscure photographer who dared to photograph his subjects in “forbidden” poses and where his publications were originally sold under the counter. His photography has become mainstream, partly due to his dutch representatives of Reflex gallery and certainly by Benedikt TAschen who published several titles on Araki , including to super large sized ARAKI special publication in 2002.

Nobuyoshi Araki is known best for his intimate, snapshot- style images sensual flowers and of women often tied up with ropes (a kinky japanese art called Kinbaku). ( some of them availabel at Reflex galery / Amsterdam).The magnitude of  Araki’s work is difficult to wrap your head around. Araki is an artist who reacts strongly to his emotions and uses photography to experience them more intensely. His work is at once shocking and mysteriously tender with a burst of power. But one thing strikes me about most of his photographs (besides the obvious nudity) is the relationship between him and the one he captures, the intimacy, the trust and the surrender. Araki is Helmut Newton on drugs but more amplified. He is not afraid of his emotions nor of showing them to the world. He is truly an exceptionally deep and emotional artist. In 1970 he created his famous Xeroxed Photo Albums, which he produced in limited editions and sent to friends, art critics and even people he selected randomly from his local telephone book.  Araki has published over 400 books of his work. Including ARAKI, a super large publication, $4000.00 book of beauty.

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About this publication said “this book reveals everything about me. it’s been a 60-year contract. Photography is love and death- that’ll be my epitaph” – Araki

But you do not have to spent as much as 4k USD. There are excellent Araki publications for far less money available at www.ftn-books.com

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Sixties magazines TIQ versus PLEXUS

The sixties were the years of my teens. And with these years belong some dutch fan music magazines . There was Muziek Express and Tuney Tunes for the young fans, For the somewhat older teens there was HITWEEK( Which later became Aloha)

and then there was finally TIQ…. a a magazine focussing on art, music, fashion, photography and ….”sex”  making this a true Dutch Pop Art magazine .It was a groundbreaking magazine , years ahead of its time. Published as a glossy magazine , but with a contents that was solely focussing on the teens and twens from the sixties.

Unfortunately it was not popular and only 14 of these magazines were published in 1966 and 1967. It disappeared much to soon from the market ,leaving the youth only Hitweek, but in France it was totally different. Of course there were BD’s ( Bandes Dessinees/ Comics) with Pilote as the leading magazine. But is focusses on the very youthful , this was recognized by L.D. publisher who wanted something different and then there suddenly was PLEXUS. No glamour photography but artful photographs by renowned photographers. Paintings by Labisse and Leonor Fini . Painters and artists who did not look away from nudity. Nudity, erotic art, erotic cartoons and short stories were the main ingredienst. Focussing with this contents on a youthful audience. In France this was the equivalent for the TIQ magazine in the Netherlands. A pop Art magazine with only 40 volumes in its publication years. Both nostalgic collectables of which there are now 3 volumes available at www.ftn-books.com

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Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

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Here si a classic sculptor who paved the way for modern sculpture. You just have to visit the Rodin museum in Paris to find the most beautiful Rodin sculptures all assembled into one place and find the “studies” among them. Look at them closely …travel in time some 50 years ahead and find parts of Henri Moore and Brancusi in them. Rodin was a genius and the dutch are lucky to have some great Rodin sculptures in public collections. There are statues in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and the Stedelijk Museum and there are 7 sculptures by Rodin collected by Mr. and Mrs Singer which are frequently on show at the Singer Museum in Laren. The most important one is a smaller sized “THINKER” statue.

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Beside the statues , Rodin made some very impressive  (erotic) watercolors. Studies of bodies which also have an abstract quality.

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There are publications on Rodin available at www.ftn-books.com

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SEX PRESS … La Revolution Sexuelle vue par la Presse Underground 1965-1975

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Sometinmes you have to walk i a foreign city to find a book which covers an important part of the sexual revolution of the Sixties. In Troyes  ( France ) of all places, i discovered this title with a local bookseller who had it on offer. Mint condition. This is far more than a coffeetable book. It shows the first nudity in major magazines, but what makes this special and stand out from other publications,is that it shows where these outings of nudity came from…… They came from the underground presses that published these magazines and books without any retsraint and making subjects on sexuality available in print for the masses. A highly interesting publication. Beautifully published and in MINT condition this is a desirable collectable book and available at www.ftn-books.com

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Otto Egberts… SCHAAMSTREKEN vol. 4

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Here is the fourth and final volume within the series Schaamstreken by Otto Egberts. And again totally different. Shadows of animal figures are combined with geometrical compositions making it completely different from the other volumes. Beautifully executed small paintings on Danish and German maps this time. Because of the thick paper used for these maps these paintings feel like real paintings , bound again in goat leather. This series has been a joy to photograph and in my opinion one of the best artist books series by a contemporary artist. Let me know what you think about it.

measures : 39,5 x 10,9 cm.

contains : 28 pages plus goat leather cover

contains : 11 “paintingss” on old geographical maps spread over 2 pages and 2 paintings on  a singular page

signed and dated, 2000 by Otto Egberts at the end page in pencil.

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Otto Egberts … SCHAAMSTREKEN vol. 3

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Here is the third volume within the series Schaamstreken by Otto Egberts. For me the most spectacular art book ever! It has a Bacon like quality…poetic, raw, explicit. Beautifully executed small paintings on German and Swedish old maps. Because of the thick paper used for these maps these paintings feel like real paintings , bound in goat leather. The scenes are personal and explicit, but above all …theye never loose their artistic quality, making this for me the ultimate artist book. enjoy the pages of this volume no. 3 and look closely at the photo which i took from the very first page. The scene explicit, but it has a dream like quality.  Next week the last volume within this series which is again totally different.

measures : 39,5 x 10,9 cm.

contains : 30 pages plus goat leather cover

contains : 11 “paintingss” on old geographical maps spread over 2 pages and 2 paintings on  a singular page

signed and dated, 2000 by Otto Egberts at the end page in pencil.

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Eric Fischl (1948) Provocative Neo-Impressionism

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Provocative? Maybe for the US , but for us Europeans this is far less provocative and controversial than for US citizens.  The first time i encountered work by Fischl was when i read about him in one of The Parkett magazines in the eighties. I could see the provocation within the scenes of the paintings and because of the subjects one makes up complete stories on the scenes depicted within these paintings. These scenes trigger your imagination and because of that imagination these are powerful paintings.

Realism in a very personal and highly recognizable style,  a symbiosis of Hopper and Rockwell, resulting in a Fischl painting. For me Fischl is the artistic contemporary son of Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell, who depicts in a provocative way every day life of the Americans. www.ftn-books.com has one title on Fischl available at the moment

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William N. Copley / CPLY (1919-1996)

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I always believed that Copley was as much appreciated in the US as he was appreciated in the Netherlands and Germany, But the reality must have been different since i read a short article on his life. His sixties works were not appreciated and understood in the US. People thought his work was pornographic, but in Europe there was a different understanding about these works . Here they were thought to be erotic and because of this different approach to these great works, they were presented in a solo exhibition within the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1966. Accompanied by a great Wim Crouwel catalogue, which is available at www.ftn-books.com.

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This appreciation of his art in the Netherlands, must have resulted in the admiration for dutch artist from the sixties and seventies by his daughter Claire who had an influential gallery in the early seventies in which she presented Ader, Dibbets and van Elk who all have become well known outside the Netherlands

If you look at these paintings now you can only ask yourself why these are being found to be pornographic…..These are great “erotic” Pop Art paintings.

 

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Copley’s works in the 1970s focused on his own understating of differences and challenges between men and women in romantic and sexual relationships. His works were now erotic, even pornographic. In 1974 he exhibited these new works at what was then the New York Cultural Center in Columbus Circle, New York in a show titled “CPLY X-Rated.” These pieces were a sudden change from his previous romantic whimsical periods. The American public had difficulty with the material, for which Copley expressed, “Americans… don’t know the difference between eroticism and pornography. Because eroticism has always existed in art. And pornography has never necessarily been in art. Copley’s experienced greater feedback in Europe, where the work was then well received. In conjunction with the New York Cultural Center Show there was a special “CPLY X-Rated Poster and Catalog.

The Claire S. Copley Gallery was a Los Angeles gallery on La Cienega Boulevard that existed from 1973-1977. Together with the galleries of Eugenia Butler, Rolf Nelson, Nick Wilder, and Riko Mizuno, the Claire Copley Gallery played an important role in the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s and 1970sThe gallery provided a venue for emerging American and European minimalist and Conceptual artists, among them Bas Jan Ader, Terry Allen, Michael Asher, Daniel Buren, Jan Dibbets, Ger Van Elk, On Kawara, Joseph Kosuth, avid Lamelas, William Leavitt, Allan McCollum, and Allen Ruppersberg. ( part of the above information was found on Wikipedia)

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Carol Rama (1918-2015)

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Another favorite of Rudi Fuchs was Carol Rama, A Turin born artist.

An Italian self-taught artist whose unconventional painting encompassed an erotic, and often sexually aggressive universe populated by characters who present themes of sexual identity with specific references to female sensuality. Her work was relatively little known until curator Lea Vergine included several pieces in a 1980 exhibition, prompting Rama to revisit her earlier watercolour style. This is the time Fuchs noticed her qualities and presented her in 2 separate exhibitions in the Stedelijk Museum. The importance of Rama must not be undersestimated , because she had contact and knew artists like Warhol, Bunuel and Man Ray. NOt being influenced by them but inspired she developed a style and art of her own , for which she was rewarded isn 2005 with a large retropective exhibition in the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in her birthplace of Turin.  A great artist who is also present in the inventory of www.ftn-books.com.