Martin Wong. Come Over Here Rockface, c. 1994, acrylic on canvas, 23 x 29 inches (58.42 x 73.66 cm). Courtesy Private Collection.
Though beautiful, it is also challenging, raising questions, causing doubts, and questioning our assumptions time and again. Curator Barry Blinderman explores its complexities with Hard Love, on view at Martos Gallery, New York, through March 5, 2016. Featuring the work of thirteen artists including Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, Jane Dickson, and John Ahearn, among others, “Hard Love” is intense, vibrant, and exciting, inspiring a new way of looking at a favorite subject. Binderman speaks with Crave about the experience of love in its varied forms.
Your curatorial statement/press release opens with an intriguing idea: “St. Paul got it wrong with that ‘love is patient, love is kind’ stuff. Love is a come on, love is release. Love is exhausting, love is enduring and enduringly difficult.” Am curious as to how you came to see these as mutual exclusive aspects of love, rather than the complex interplay of complementary forces?
Barry Blinderman: Well, I was being a bit flippant in order to get to the heart of how we customarily experience romantic love these days. I’ve since read that Paul used the Greek term agape not eros, so he was talking about a more spiritual and self-sacrificing love, far from the idea of “being in love.” Interestingly, modern translators substituted the adjective “patient” for the verb makrothumei, which together with agape translates roughly to “love long-passions.” Or, as in the King James translation, “love suffers long,” where “suffers” means “endures.” Some choice wordplay opportunities emerged after the fact.
For me, the title “Hard Love” has many meanings: hard as enduring and strong; hard as in difficult or perhaps forbidden; and hard as in sexually aroused. As an aspiring but mostly failed Buddhist, I know how hard the “middle path” is to follow—we are constantly entrapped by our desires, and they cannot be ultimately sustained. We are basically set up to suffer (and not in the Greek sense) if we fall in love with anyone. Yet just about everyone will agree that it’s worth it, however hard the pain is to endure.
Please talk the idea of Hard Love. How does it manifest as an aesthetic, and what are its different forms?
Rather than see it as a particular aesthetic, I’d like to think that at a fundamental level all art, even the most abstract, is about savoring the moment, whether it is inspired by politics, love, sex, other art, or death. In the press release, I attempted to group the artists according to aspects of the theme, like “eroticism and the social body” or “immersion of oneself in the desired other.”
I love the lineup of artists in the show. Did you think of them first, then look for examples of Hard Love, or did you have specific works in mind when you envisioned Hard Love?
It’s hard to say. It’s like that old,”Which comes first: the lyrics or the melody?” question songwriters get asked. This was a last-minute opportunity to put together an exhibition, so I didn’t have a lot of time to map it out, and I didn’t just want to adapt an idea I had already developed. I had just published a book on Walter Robinson, whose paintings all deal with some manifestation of desire, so the idea was on my mind. Some of my favorite artists have made work that relates to romance and sex, and they all deal with it in different ways.
I began with a list of around eight out of the final thirteen artists. Then I tried to refine the concept, which is anything but a science. I went through hundreds of pictures I’d taken over the past several years to see if anything rang a bell. I ran through my inner visual database. Some artworks just popped up through association. I hadn’t been familiar with Aura Rosenberg’s Dialectical Porn Rocks, but stumbled upon them in the process. Same with Jennifer Gustavson’s video I Love You. Both proved to be pertinent to the exhibition’s balance. I was very lucky to get all the work I wanted.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.