Photographer Eric Minh Swenson is famous, infamous, notorious in the SoCal art world. You can’t miss him. He has the biggest camera, the most aquamarine eyes, the goofiest hubris. And most importantly, he gets the best shots of artists, candid and posed of anyone. He has also created over 400 mini-documentaries chronicling Southern California artists and their processes, making him demonstrably one of the most important art historians in the digital age. He has also written, directed and produced three feature narrative films (available on DVD) and the documentary Mana which focuses on male Light and Space artists is out at festivals now.
Last year I had the pleasure of co-curating an exhibition with Eric at the first Photo Independent LA fair which featured the artier work of noted fetish/erotic photographers. EMS Nude Survey 1, which opens Aprils 3 at Jamie Brooks Fine Arts in Costa Mesa is a natural flow in Swenson’s career.
Brooks, who had been following Swenson’s career via social media, was introduced to the photographer by fellow gallerist, Peter Blake at the 2014 Palm Springs Art Fair. Later, Brooks suggested Swenson curate a show, giving him carte blanche to do whatever struck his fancy.
Swenson, a sensualist and a libertine who grow up an heady diet of arty nudes (his father is photographer Lou Swenson, known for his glorious nudes and landscapes) went for it, corralling a wide range of artists for a very malleable and enduring concept: EMS Nude Survey.
The inaugural survey features over thirty artists covering the gamut of established gallery and museum-collection artists to recently graduated MFAs who Swenson has championed–a wide swath of sexy, thought provoking photography, paintings and sculptures. While Swenson has included a photograph by his father, none of his own work appears in show, though he did shoot the cheeky social media campaign featuring artists, models and art world figures.
Swenson feels that sex is the foundational drive of all human activity. Some may feel that his is a binary, heteronormative cis-gendered way of thinking, but I gotta say, it’s not. Eros/thanatos anyone? Within the show there is decidedly second-wave feminist work (Allie Pohl), grippingly erotic images (April Flores, Robert Adler, Steve Diet Goedde, Eric Kroll, Victor Lightworship Dave Naz), classical (Bradford Saloman, Renée Jacobs, Angela Izzo, Ashley Bravin), the straightforward, the the coy, the layered, the symbolic and much more, including sculputral works form Charles Swesons and Eric Johnson. From a curatorial point of view, EMSNS1 has no socio-political ideology about hegemony, patriarchy, or any other agenda: Swenson wanted to show nudes (though in some cases they are partially clad) by artists whose work he liked and respected, and the art allows viewers to clothe the images in their own (pre) conceptions.
Alert: Some of the artwork in the show could be considered explicit, and all contain a degree of nudity, including naked bathing suit parts.
Eric Minh Swenson EMS Nude Survey 1
Opening reception April 3, 2015 6pm to 11pm
Jamie Brooks Fine Arts
2967 Randolph Avenue, Unit C
Costa Mesa, Ca 92626
Below: Ted Meyer, Barbara Milliorn, Renée Jacobs, Angela Izzo