Now showing through April 25th at The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is the group exhibition Desire. Curated by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Blanton curator of American and contemporary art and director of curatorial affairs, Desire features fifty works from an international grouping of contemporary artists working in a variety of media. The concept of the exhibition is to present the many ways artists have explored the notion of desire and its many facets within their work. The thought of this concept being visually displayed is tantalizing, yet, it is only with the multiple video works that the exhibition’s guard comes down. Isaac Julien’s Long Road to Mazatlán (1999), a video collaboration with the choreographer Javier de Frutos, is a stunning visualization of the yearning of two cowboys “dancing” around their mutual attraction and the stigma that often comes along with it. Cauleen Smith’s Elsewhere, is a sensual film of a woman standing absolutely still while another person slowly unravels her sweater by a single thread.
However, it is Amy Globus’s video installation Electric Sheep (2001-2002) that will make the viewer blush. Set to Emmy Lou Harris’ rendition of Neil Young’s, Wrecking Ball, a large octopus is filmed in slow motion as it makes its way from one confined space to another. While watching the piece the viewer is likely to feel all the accoutrements of desire simultaneously: longing, lust, sensuality, fantasy, rejection, sexual identity, passion, intimacy etc. Also not to be missed is Mads Lynnerup’s Untying a Shoe with an Erection (2003), a tongue-in-cheek performance of presumably a man untying his shoe with his penis. The exhibition is able to transcend being merely an exercise of artists implementing the theme of desire, perhaps a bit unwittingly, with the dominance of these video works. The question that lingers long after leaving the museum is exactly how much of a continued role visual media plays in defining our collective idea of desire.
The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, housed in a recently completed two building complex, is one of the foremost university art museums in the country. The museum’s collection is the largest and most comprehensive in Central Texas and comprises more than 18,000 works. It is recognized for its European paintings, modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, and an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings.