gay city news

Head Games
Three artists in two shows to rock
the body, mind, and soul
What's New Pussycat?
Works on Paper by
Jane Gang and Wes Lang
Briggs-Robinson: 527 W. 29th Street
Through September 3
Lights (Body), 2000-2002
A video installation by
Wolfgang Tillmans
Andrea Rosen: 525 W. 24th Street
Through August 26

Their last names are strikingly similar. The inspiration for their work is too: women, in all their voluptuous physicality, sexuality, and conceptual carnality. Jane Gang and Wes Lang share ideas and space in this duo-show with a fun title, What's New Pussycat? In the meantime they reveal a delicious sense of fun and offer a refreshing way of viewing sexuality.

For Gang the work begins with female strippers on stage - entertaining gentlemen (or ladies, considering the artist), stock brokers, men of a certain age, retirees, randy young men, voyeurs all. Their performances are only suggested, though, by Gang's swirls of color and line hinting at disembodied performers and audience members.

Ms. Gang works from life; her models are strippers in two clubs, the Pussycat Lounge here in New York, and the Sunset Strip in London. At the clubs, Ms. Gang makes preliminary sketches on a pad no bigger than 5 by 7 inches from which she then creates, in her studio, larger works up to 34 by 46 inches.

The women in Gang's final paintings on paper are barely seen, except as splashes of color and perhaps a pair of spike heels. Each is faceless, bodiless: only her movement is captured. In one of the several larger works titled "Sunset Strip, 2002," a stripper in blue spike heels seems to be bending over under a rush of heavy costume, showing her posterior to three complacent men with disembodied faces and hands; the faces are smiling, the hands are clapping.

There's a wry feyness to Gang's work, suggesting the tongue-in-cheek naughtiness of Beatrice Wood's eccentric, little clay statuettes. But naughtiness is not Gang's purpose. Whatever else her purpose is, it surely includes magic. With minimalist color and line, she creates the magic of energy and dynamism, of joy and exuberance, all of which are tangible. The viewer feels the energy and is swept along with it.

For this show, Gang has also created a limited edition wallpaper: "Strippers and their Punters," exhibited on the gallery's front and back walls as black images on a green background and in the bathroom as black images on white. The wallpaper sells for $250 a roll.

Wouldn't it be nice if this led to a new kind of one-upmanship game along the cocktail party circuit?

"I just bought a Picasso print."

"Well, I have a Jane Gang bathroom!"

Mr. Lang also works mostly on paper and with the female form. His sources, however, are not live performers, but rather photos from pornographic magazines. He isolates the women from their surroundings and suspends them in the nothingness of a void. His subjects' bodies are hard-edged, muted, and flat.

Without the vivid colors and the physical heat of the original photo, the images become clinical and sterile. Despite the labia, spike heels, and occasional dildo, they are stale and as tired as yesterday's hangover, as uncomfortable and unsatisfying as showering in a raincoat. Which is a powerful statement in its own right.
On about half the pictures, Lang has appended non-sequitur captions. One with a model sitting on floor, leaning backwards, open-mouthed and spread-legged reads: "And without all the help and support from each of you, none of this would have been possible."

Another, with a model lying flat, her hands pulling open her labia: "The world's costliest perfumes are worthless - unless you're sure of your own natural fragrance."

Lang takes his Dada-esque art to a different level with a piece made from a large framed mirror. Painted over the glass, in black enamel outline, is a porno centerfold on her hands and knees. The result is about as evocative and inviting as the public nudes in fountains and wall paintings and etched glass partitions that have graced public spaces since the days of the art nouveau, art deco, and even before.

Lang also shows two rather unusual "compositions." The larger is anchored by five sheets of his birth-announcement stationary - blue and white diagonal checked - with his name in bold black print across the top. Lang has added to the bottom of each paper two crudely printed words: "Pussy Licker," "Finger Fucker," "Ass Eater," "Cunt Breath," and "Panty Sniffer." In and around the formal stationery, there are scraps of paper with doodle-like sketches of nude women, clothed men, and body parts. The cumulative effect of these 36 disparate sheets of paper seems to be a parody of the adolescent boy's discovery of his ability to shock with sexual vulgarities.

Wolfgang Tillmans is a German-born photographer living in London. His video installation at Andrea Rosen Gallery is as disembodied and evocative as the Pussycat exhibit at Briggs-Robinson.

On a "wall-screen," approximately 15 feet by 11 feet, the installation seems about to morph into a discotheque/rock-palace light show. But Tillmans takes the viewer instead straight to the light source alone and lets you create your own dance floor. His camera initially focuses on a mirrored ball as lights reflect across its squares, and then on the light fixtures, singly or in groups.

The image is black and white, grainy, and soft in focus. Occasionally smoke rises with the light playing behind. The mood is dark and mysterious, heady but not psychedelic. Indeed, a young man in his early twenties entered the viewing room with a friend; as soon as he heard the music, a track from an Air album, he started gyrating. But once he faced the screen, his body became silent in absorption. It's a quiet transference that Tillmans creates. Something magical, almost mystical, happens.