Little Girls #1 and its complement, Big Girls, share concerns found in Minter’s later work, both examining the way the female body is gazed upon—from childhood to Hollywood stardom. The funhouse-style mirroring in Little Girls #1 suggests the distorting effects of traditional notions of beauty and femininity imposed by this gaze. The dot pattern, or Benday dots, mimics newspaper printing techniques, in a fineart nod to popular culture pioneered by Pop artists of the 1950s and 1960s. Yet Minter’s paintings push into territory previously unexplored by Pop art, implicitly critiquing its subject matter, which was determined primarily by male artists.
The Coral Ridge Towers photographs—resulting from an undergraduate assignment—show the artist’s mother variously posing, lounging, and primping in the privacy of her home. The artist has described her troubled mother as a reclusive “Southern belle.” One of Minter’s main themes, the ways in which women view, mask, and display themselves, is exemplified in the extreme by her mother’s narcissism, reflected in the many mirrors of her home. To the artist’s surprise, these stark portraits disturbed her classmates, and, as a result, she did not show the work for more than twenty-five years.
Twenty years before the rise of foodie culture, 100 Food Porn drew connections between the work of food preparation—shucking, peeling, deveining, and cutting—and sexual activity. The paintings borrow from the language of drips and splashes known in the work of Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock. They also amplify the sexual implications of flying fluid in close-cropped captures of hands in domestic action.
A hypnotic soundtrack accompanies a close-up, slow-motion video of a model’s lips moving amid a variety of slimy substances, from vodka to liquefied candy. Separated from the viewer by a pane of glass, the seemingly insatiable mouth has a clear antecedent in the porn star, but the sucking in and vomiting out—of electric green ooze, bubbles of caviar, and tangled hair—is as repulsive as it is mesmerizing. Green Pink Caviar was seen beyond the art world, appearing on billboards in New York and Los Angeles, as well as in a version used as a video backdrop during Madonna’s “Sticky and Sweet Tour.”
Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty
November 4, 2016–May 7, 2017
Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor
This exhibition contains sexually explicit content and may not be suitable for all audiences, including minors. Viewer discretion is advised.
Marilyn Minter’s sensual paintings, photographs, and videos vividly explore complex and contradictory emotions around beauty and the feminine body in American culture. She trains a critical eye on the power of desire, questioning the fashion industry’s commercialization of sex and the body. Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty is the first retrospective of her work.
Spanning more than four decades, the exhibition begins with the artist’s earliest artworks, from 1969 through 1986, including rarely exhibited photographs as well as paintings incorporating photorealist and Pop art techniques. It continues with works from the late 1980s and 1990s that examine visual pleasure in visceral depictions of food and sex. The exhibition culminates in Minter’s ongoing investigation of how the beauty industry expertly creates and manipulates desire through images.
Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Curator, and Carmen Hermo, Assistant Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum.
The accompanying book is published by Gregory R. Miller & Company, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
This exhibition is supported by generous grants from Gregory R. Miller & Co.; Amy and John Phelan; Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn/Salon 94, New York; and Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch. Generous support for the Brooklyn Museum presentation is provided by The Fuhrman Family Foundation; Amy and John Phelan; the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.; Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan and Patrick Scanlan; the Taylor Foundation; Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch; The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; Salon 94, New York; Maharam; Naomi Aberly and Larry Lebowitz; Sherry Brous and Douglas Oliver; Richard Edwards and Baldwin Gallery, Aspen; Christina and Emmanuel Di Donna; Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson; Linda and Gregory Fischbach; Danielle and David Ganek; Dominique Lévy and Dorothy Berwin; the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation; Regen Projects; Richard B. Sachs; Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation; Fern and Lenard Tessler; Isabella and Theodor Dalenson; Emily Glasser and William Susman; Gregory R. Miller and Michael Wiener; Antinori Wines; Barbara and Michael Gamson; and Richard and Beth Heller.
Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong series of exhibitions celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.