Body works, Part IV: Anal Art

(About art, but since it’s about Keith Boadwee, with a lot of male bodyparts and studied outrageousness. Not for kids or the sexually modest.)

On the 3rd, a piece about dancers performing with laser cartridges up their butts — a defiant and entertaining artistic move — prompted Aric Olnes to remind me about San Francisco artist Keith Boadwee and his brand of playful (and also deeply serious) in-your-face, up-my-butt art.

Briefly on the artist, from his website:

Born: Meridian, Mississippi, 1961. Lives/Works: Emeryville, California. Education: B.A., UCLA., 1989.

I am a visiting faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute where I teach in the New Genres and Graduate departments.

Most of Boadwee’s body art cannot be displayed on WordPress, Facebook, or Google+, so four items (photographs or compositions, depending on how you think of them) have been sequestered on AZBlogX. These found thanks to the Encyclopedia Dramatica article on him and to material on Boadwee’s own sites (details on AZBogX):

#3: This, from the 1995 series Purple Squirt, is the single most famous Keith Boadwee image, Blue Squirt [note: I was absolutely sure I had already posted this remarkable image of a model squirting blue paint out of his ass, to create a painting, but I couldn’t find it.]

#2: (from a 1995 show) “Which leads us to the best piece in the show “Untitled (piss in mouth)”, which is quite simply Boadwee on his back, aiming a stream of urine into his own mouth. As a stunt it is full of self effacing narcissism, conflating Eros, humiliation, self sufficient grandiosity and an allusion to the spectacle that is the artist’s way.” —Jeff Jahn, Portland Art News & Reviews

#1: “Iris, After Van Gogh (Mouth Covered)” (1996) [an early, wonderfully playful piece]

#4: For a gallery opening, A.A. Bronson & Keith Boadwee “Plaid”, 2/25/16 at Deborah Schamoni, München [a return to the paint-sprayed-out-the-ass theme, one photo from a series about a substantial joint project]

Boadwee is relentlessly transgressive, and often, apparently: unseriously, faggily, playful. Playful yes, unserious no. Critics charge that his stuff is just sex — sometimes raw sex, sometimes weird, deviant, and disgusting sex, sometimes silly sex — and that isn’t art, and he shoots back defiantly: yes, it’s sex, queer sex, all the time, all stops out, in your face, and that’s just fine, just the way things should be, why shouldn’t sex be art? (I paraphrase freely.)

Some of his stuff I find murky or slapdash, but there are amazing things in there. And then there are set pieces, like this rare item that I can post here (because its transgression is verbal rather than anatomical):


Eat Shit (after Nauman), 2004

I assume this is Boadwee’s take on Bruce Nauman’s Eat War (1986). From a Christie’s site on the Nauman piece:


A dynamic and vibrant work, both in colour and message, Eat War by Bruce Nauman is a political challenge that alternates staccato flashes in neon hues of green and red. The irony is thick, the aesthetic charge is dazzling, as the artist sets up a rhythmic counterpoint that challenges the viewer to confront their own experiential thresholds.

The words and their ‘message’ reside in friction. In a sense, both actions — eating and warring — are acts of devouring, referencing the culture of spectacle and consumption, the nature of advertising and the desire for immediate gratification and instant information. Perhaps the gulf between the two is not so vast after all.

Bruce Nauman began working with neon in the 1960s, creating unusual, off-kilter works that mocked Minimalism by taking its core principles of replication, repetition and hard-edged geometric forms and representing them in exaggerated form. In Eat War, executed in 1986, tensions are explored between the artist and viewer and between language and experience. Laconic, yet replete with meaning, Eat War is a visceral experience and an exhilarating work of art.

(Possibly a combination of Make Love, Not War and, yes, Eat Shit!)

Nauman deserves a substantial posting about his work. To come.

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