Eroticism in art has the capacity to both indulge and terrify us. Distinct from pornography, there is a subversive potential within the representation of erotic pleasure. In Bliss, three artists’ conceptions of the psychological and cultural complexities of sexuality highlight their historical and theoretical context: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jason Rhoades and Pierre Auguste Renoir. A dialogue between these artists has never been presented, and it will be an exciting opportunity to emphasise new connections through their diverse practices.
The work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres has the potential to suffuse everyday objects with erotic resonance, and despite the formally reticent compositions of the work, it expands the approach to eroticism beyond pleasure with recurrent allusions to broader potential meanings. Rhoades challenges his viewers with the vulgarity of his euphemisms for vagina, shaping pornographic vocabulary into dazzling neon light compositions, reaching towards a new sublime where sanctity meets profanity in a ‘heavenly hash of ridiculous’. Renoir exploits the tension between the representation of the nude and the 19th century cultural restrictions on nakedness in real life. His subjects refer to the artistic canon of the idealised nude, but their fleshy rendering in thick paint, paired with hints at contemporary interiors, show his subjects as real women caught in intimate and private moments.