Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Hoerengracht*

I slipped out to the National Gallery to have a look at 'The Sacred Made Real' exhibition of Spanish religious art. This wasn't some subliminal reversion to my Catholic roots. I just have a taste for that kind of gory-kitsch. Much as I have a taste for the slasher genre of b-movies. A lot of church art would equally merit the same label of 'torture porn'.

I found the exhibition had shut a few days previously - so ironically instead I had a look at 'The Hoerengracht'. This is an installation by Ed and Nancy Kienholz - although I prefer the more old-fashioned term 'tableaux' - grungily recreating a scene from Amsterdam's red light district in the 1980's with the prostitutes in their famous canal-side windows. The prostitutes are resin molds taken from real women, with the heads taken from fashion mannequins. Frames - like picture frames but actually taken from gift boxes - surround each of the models' heads. Apparently when constructing it the artists gave each model/dummy a name. It's every bit as disturbing, intriguing, sleazy and poignant as you'd expect...

* Hoerengracht means 'whore's canal' - the Dutch word for the red light district. Substitute one letter and you get 'gentlemen's canal' a fashionable and chic district close by. What a great language.

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