paint a lot of cocks," Anthony Ausgang says, and these days he's not alone.
When it comes to contemporary art, sex is the subject, Playboy the influence,
and nudity the norm. Pomo porno art is everywhere from Lisa Yuskavage's boobalicious
babe paintings for the Whitney Biennial, to John Currin's come-hither retro-hussy
art at the New York galleries, to Matthew Barney's filmic ruminations on his
own testicles at the local indie-plex. In Los Angeles, Ausgang's X-rated aesthetic
plays itself out in a cartoon world of penises and pussies where bestiality
is metaphor for our own accelerating desires to copulate ever creatively.
Born in Trinidad and raised in Houston, the tall, blond, and 40-year-old Ausgang, a former art-school drop-out and ex-art mule, lives and works in East L.A. Early encounters with 'toon TV, his father's stash of porn rags, and books of New Yorker cartoons are influences he cites as formative. Referencing the early caveman drawings from 14,000 B.C. in Lascaux, France, Ausgang counter-offers tongue-in-cheek: "For quite a long time people have been painting the human figure and I'm sick of it. I think it's about time to try and get the idea of the human condition across, but using something other than the human figure." Hence, humanity - a frequently sexualized one - is represented by Ausgang in the inter-species intercourse of John Holmesian horses, lothario yellow dogs, and pink and green perverted kitties. "I don't really have to paint people fucking, but I can paint cats fucking," explains Ausgang, "and it gets the idea across in a subverted way."
Part of the so-called "Left Coast Low-Brow" art movement - L.A.-ites Robert Williams and Coop among them - Ausgang is somewhat more sophisticated, working in the genre of illustration but with a self-conscious knowledge of fine art. "The artists who are involved in this tend to be proud of the fact that they're bottom feeders, in a way, in the cultural hierarchy, and I don't mind that at all," Ausgang says. Once I realized that there's no point in taking my work to the Beverly Hills galleries - they're never going to hep too it anyway - life just became a lot easier. I just suddenly ignored all that shit I was trying to get into and realized there's a really vibrant thing happening at my cultural level, so I'll just exist in that." He adds, "If those people up there want to come down, that's fine, but I'm not going up to them."
Ausgang's more erotic art is invariably comedic and titillating in its aggressiveness, as it regularly captures sexual moments caught, in time or by voyeur. His work falls into two groupings - fully original paintings, and reworkings of paintings Ausgang finds in thrift shops. By fucking with found paintings, he says, "It's a collaboration in some respect", one that, when it comes to kitsch art, "breaks them out of the cultural garbage can."
Perhaps most prominently, Ausgang art on sex is populated by a plethora of genitalia. Most commonly featured are penises; as Ausgang points out: "If I'm gonna paint a female, I gotta go get out a dirty magazine, go on-line, or hire a model. If I want to paint a penis, I just have to whip it out, stand in a mirror, and I can pretty much do it." As pomo porno artists are discovering, sexually racy art is a Catch-22, though. "It's a way to get noticed - it's juvenile, in a way." Agrees Ausgang, yet response is complex. "Sex represents so many things to so many people because people have their hang-ups, their things they're trying to hide, and it all comes to the surface when they look at a painting that has sex in it."
With titles like, The Last Pussy in Town, Penis En Vue, and The Doctor's Orifice, Ausgang does his part to add to the increasingly high-brow reception of the traditionally designated low-brow subject of sex. A solo show at L.A.'s Kanto Gallery will run from October 28 to November 30. "L.A. is just this chaotic stew of infinite possibilities," says Ausgang, whose work is owned by Hollywooders like David Arquette, Nicholas Cage, and Perry Farrell. "You can go to an art opening and see porno actors and musicians and artists, and they all come together occasionally in these weird arenas. If you're observant enough and you can see all this stuff going on, it's really inspirational."