Rolling around with your special someone means different things to different people. But can sucking face on a canvas while covered in paint create a lasting work of art? Artist Alexander Esguerra believes it can. His method is quite simple: put two people in a room, supply them with paint, and let them do what comes naturally, all over a canvas. He calls the show, curated by Gregory de la Haba at Windows on Orchard Gallery, ‘Universal Truth’. “Each of these paintings have their own mystique,” said Esguerra. “In this act of love, in this moment, couples create this painting that kind of equalizes us all, makes us one. It’s a common thread that unites us all, this universal truth.”
Esguerra sets the scene for the couples, who come from all walks of life and have varying sexual orientations, but he does not actually do any of the ‘painting’. “I’m removed from the situation,” he said. “I’m more of a composer, in a sense.” The body of his work (sorry) explodes (sorry again) in a torrent (oops) of color, along with black slashes and smudges, almost like the splooge-y residue from lovemaking itself, from back in the days before people recorded their rutting on canvas. “I explain to them the best positions, the way to apply the paint, and then I leave the room,” said Esguerra.
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When they’re finished with their candlelit romance, they text him, and he returns to the studio, where he turns on the lights and together they assess the evening’s squishy aftermath. “They’re covered in paint, it’s kind of beautiful,” said Esguerra. He doesn’t alter the canvas in any way, except to stretch it so it can be framed. And does he have an inkling of how the finished work will look, based on the couples’ predilections? “A lot of these works are female couples, so you’ll notice a lot more negative space,” he said. “I think it’s the way their bodies interact with the canvas as opposed to heterosexual couples. And of course the positions that two females would naturally do, give me a different image.”
Just in case you needed to be reminded of the sexual provenance of what’s hanging on the walls, there are two scantily-clad Russian dancers snaking and slithering in the storefront windows of the gallery on a packed opening night. They ooze sex so overtly, it creates a remarkable counterpoint to the subtle, almost quiet works that hang on the walls behind them.