Marilyn Minter is known for paintings and photographs that approach the body, sexuality, and fashion with gritty, feminist glamour. Installed along the I-70 corridor, her work speaks with complexity and ambiguity to themes of consumption. It is unclear whether the mouth, at once luscious and grotesque, is a victim trapped inside the sign or an invader with an urge to devour. Drooling and breathy, the mouth fogs the sign’s “surface” with steam and condensation, yet we cannot really know whether this “Big Sigh” is one of contentment or resignation. The dual meaning is appropriate, given the back-and-forth along the interstate between ads that tempt people to consume “goods” that are “bad” (such as fast food, slot machines, and lap dances) and messages playing on consumer guilt to promote programs for “better” living (such as health facilities and megachurches).
On the Sign Show’s main billboard in rural Hatton, the artwork engaged consumption in terms of land, food, and sex, looming over agricultural equipment such as rotary tillers and adjacent to signs for a strip club. In its second “satellite” location, by a busy commercial rail line, the moist, open mouth connotes a darker, even metaphysical sense of consumption pertaining to escapism and time. Right behind “Big Sigh,” a billboard warns of the perils of heroin (featuring an upside-down cartoon cat, the slogan “1 Death per day,” and the web address curiosityandheroin.org). Nearby, almost invisible in grassy overgrowth, is a small family graveyard dating from the 1860s.
Minter’s Sign Show participation coincides with her first major museum retrospective, Pretty/Dirty. She spoke with Mark Guiducci for Vogue.com, who wrote, “Slick, steamy, soiled, smeared: Such is the work of Marilyn Minter, the painter and photographer whose composite images of female body parts (think a mouthful of muddy pearls) have been embraced and reviled for their sensual magnetism for more than three decades. Collected by everyone from the Guggenheim to Jay Z — she makes a dancing cameo in his video “Picasso Baby” — Minter [on the occasion of her traveling retrospective] sat down … for a candid conversation about a few of her favorite things and the state of her art.” Click here to read the full article.
Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty was co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and travels to the Orange County (CA) Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition catalogue was reviewed in the New York Times.