Orange County has a reputation for being one of the most conservative enclaves in Southern California -- but noted art photographer Eric Minh Swenson and gallery owner Jamie Brooks are upending that trope on April 3 when Swenson's EMS Nude Survey 1, aka EMSNS1, opens at Brooks' Costa Mesa Gallery, Jamie Brooks Fine Arts.
While some of the images may have local bluestocking blue-hairs clutching their pearls before the scales fall from their eyes, the less provincial and parochial will be able to appreciate what Swenson calls humanity's most fundamental drive -- sexuality, seen through the eyes of over thirty artists.
Swenson -- who has spent the last four years documenting the Southern California art scene through photography and videos -- is the son of acclaimed photographer Lou Swenson. During his teen years, Eric's bedroom was covered with Sports Illustrated swimsuit models as well as photography by Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier and Richard Avedon. Because of his father's art, Eric was exposed to a more sophisticated level of nude and fashion photography while normal kids were looking at Playboy and Hustler. Since he was mentored by his father, nudes were something he grew up appreciating as an art form.
Swenson's father will have a nude photograph in the show as a reminder of where the younger Swesons came from, and as the core influence of his photographic pursuits. Last year Eric and I co-curated a photo show of fetish photographers at Photo Independent, and EMSNS1 is a natural outgrowth of both the subject and the experience. Eric will not have his own work in the show; however, the official social media campaign leading up to EMSNS1 features his photographs of the artists and models involved in the show, as well as photos of important art world figures. (Full disclosure: I modeled for one of the social media images).
Continuing the theme of associations and intimacy, most of the artists in the show are Eric's friends and associates with whom he has collaborated. Some are artists he's met through his associations with their galleries. Others are recent MFA graduates he's been following. With over four hundred short video documentaries he's shot on art world figures, and hundreds of thousands of images, Eric had a vast pool of talent from which to draw.
Swenson was offered the opportunity to launch his Nude Survey series by Jamie Brooks of the Costa Mesa-based Jamie Brooks Fine Arts. After the two were introduced by Peter Blake at the 2014 Palm Springs Art Fair, Brooks began following Swenson's daily expeditions in the art world and approached him about curating a show, giving the photographer carte blanche to create the exhibition he wanted. (Brooks also appears nude in one of the social media images)
The result is a lush, and sumptuous array of nude humanity depicted in photographs, paintings and sculpture. A majority of this inaugural show will be monotone, though some of the painters were given liberty to use color, mainly because they seldom if ever work solely in black and white. Of note: Eric is not afraid to show strong, unabashed nudes by women artists. Standouts are photos by Angela Izzo and Renée Jacobs which contrast nature with the cosmopolitan, while April Flores pushes erotic self-engagement to the limits. Erotic absolutists Eric Adler, Steve Diet Goode, Eric Kroll and Victor Lightworship deliver the goods with their signature visions. Expect some surprises as you try to guess the gender of the artists, which is a good thing.
Some of the images are not "pure" nudes; there are works in which models are partially clad, but the overall impact of bodies -- male and female -- in all their forms, is revealing of the human condition, of our desires and urges for ourselves and others.
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