Sex meets art in Johalla Projects' "In a Plain Brown Wrapper" (some images NSFW)
The Johalla Projects website is quick to mention that “In a Plain Brown Wrapper” is “not an event for the prude”—nor for under-18s. During the June 26 opening, attempts to maintain an objective gaze were met by a sweaty guy in Calvin Klein underwear stuffed with dollar bills grinding against the wall (Emerson Granillo's three-hour performance It’s OK), making it impossible to leave one's own hang-ups about sex and nudity at the door.
The Wicker Park group show transforms the “plain brown wrapper,” which once enabled porn publishers to distribute their wares discreetly to homes across the country, into a metaphor for the sexual desires that the average person keeps wrapped up. While some of the works (view a sample in our NSFW slide show, above) on view draw on an awareness of porn culture, many are deeply personal or drenched in humor and sweetness.
The artists who focus more on individual expressions of sexuality deal with the idea of “un-wrapping” better than those who incorporate familiar pornographic tropes. Maybe that’s because we all secretly want to wrench our sexual feelings free from the multi-billion-dollar porn industry's stereotypes. It's easier to relate to Mary Clare O’Sadnick's funny-yet-visceral poems about sex in her self-published Ich Liebe Dick: Love You Long Time, than to the 1960s cheesecake photos in Jaroslaw Studencki's Wood or Ivan Lozano's printouts of Googled explicit material. Another highlight, Kristen Stokes's video (Key)stroke Me, brings out the slight absurdity of cybersex by alternating words typed on computer screens with the physical reality of bodies carrying out their instructions.
"In a Plain Brown Wrapper" was curated by Barbara DeGenevieve and Anna Cerniglia. It closes Sat 3, when it's open by appointment. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.