Anthony Ausgang and people will think of the neon-colored cats, dogs, and wolves
who are forever being mugged and maimed in this painter's cartoon hallucinations.
If we seem to recognize these hapless creatures, it is because they are the
whacked descendants of Wil E. Coyote and Top Cat, actors in an existential vaudeville
that is both familiar and visionary, outlandish and claustrophobic, a psychedelic
happy hour gone terribly wrong.
Ausgang belongs to the low brow art fraternity, that laconic convergence of kar kulture and Wild West apocalypse. No wonder, then, that his paintings are a supercharged freebase of violence, paranoia, and exhibitionist sex, in which the sensual is often accompanied by a playful undertow of menace. For all that, "erotic" may not be a word most people would use to describe the work of this Los Angeles artist, a fact that Ausgang himself is quick to point out. "How erotic can a picture be'" he muses, "if it doesn't have anything to do with your species?"
The answer is plenty, for once Ausgang's fur-otica is assembled in a single venue, as it is on these pages, the libidinous howl (or meow) that's ever on the lips of his four-legged characters is heard loud and clear. These are images that poke deep into our subconscious fantasies and remind us sounds in our vocabulary of animal endearments, for words like pussy, tail, cock, and horndog also belong, of course, to the slangy lexicon of sex.
Like much of Ausgang's art, his ribald pictures can be divided into two categories: original works and images painted over found-art canvases. In some ways these later pictures are the more subversive because, while flattering to their unknown creators with public exposure, Ausgang's visual graffiti warps their original intent into something outrageously lascivious and often sinister.
Paintings like Little Red Riding Hood Got Big, in which a classically reclining Maja nude is about to receive her vulpine lothario in a cloudy swirl of fabric, and Hung Like A Horse, a romanticized landscape dominated by a majestic horse, impose animals, as well as human sex organs, over the serious intentions of the originals. The result deflates the latter's pretensions while goosing the viewer into the role of juvenile voyeur.
It's not all shaggy dogstyle stories, however, for in such original works as Tiki Torture, Ausgang moves away from animals to animism as a wooden idol gets the chains-and-cuffs treatment from a human dominatrix, while in The Slaves' Birthday (inspired by the artist's attending a child's birthday party and later seeing an S&M scene on TV), only the genders of two bandage wrapped figures and a dom pinata are apparent as the slaves get to turn the tables on their beloved tormentress.
While Ausgang's work is refreshingly original, it remains part of an outlaw tradition of sexual iconoclasm that began with the early porntoons drawn by Hollywood animators during their off-hours, the other-worldly carnality of Hammes Bok and the outrageous comix of R Crumb. And like those of his predecessors, the scenes in Ausgang's fantasies are born from the same kind of woozy dream logic that narrates most pornography, in which suppressed desires surface to reality through drugs, booze, or simple magic. The eroticism of Ausgang's art may not be the torn pantyhose kind, but like the best erotica, it leads us to imagine our own before-and -after stories in what we are viewing.
It should come as no surprise that Ausgang's paintings have found their way into the collections of porn industry figures. These are people who have no inhibitions about showing a little framed T&A on their walls, much less the critters from Ausgang's heavy petting zoo. "Erotic art is a sophisticated person's pornography," Ausgang says, noting that erotic imagery has become a lot more acceptable than before. "There's nothing subversive or counterculteral about it to someone in the porn industry." That may be so, but in these audaciously twisted images, Ausgang has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "animal lover".