Arts preview: 'Il Gabinetto Segreto'

Jim Fischer

Alan Reeve and Jay Mueller have curated exhibitions of erotic art before, but none quite this large and none in Alicia Vanderelli's vanguard Franklinton space.

"Il Gabinetto Segreto" (more on the title later) will feature the work of more than 60 artists - close to 150 pieces in all - most of it new and some of which has never been exhibited.

"This stuff is awesome. Everything that has come in has been mind-blowing," Reeve said, eschewing any fear of hyperbole. (Also, he's right.)

"You'd be amazed at how many galleries won't show erotica," Reeve said.

"In a mildly conservative culture, it can be hard to get shows like this out there," Mueller added. "This show will demonstrate that the caliber of artwork is high. This is well-crafted art, as well as being enjoyable and erotic."

"I wanted the opportunity to showcase this kind of work and to participate," Vanderelli said, joking that she made her inclusion a condition of hosting the exhibition in the Vanderelli Room. "It's a fit for the gallery and for myself as an artist."

In order to combat a culture that offers few opportunities to display erotic art and to foster an ongoing appreciation for the content, Reeve and Mueller approached the assembly of the exhibition with two primary goals: first, to have art from artists stretching from local to international; and second, to not limit in any way an artist's definition of erotica.

"We didn't want to bar the artists from touching upon anything," Reeve said. "So we really opened it up. We have some pieces that are humorous, some that are shocking and some that are stunningly beautiful."

"Pretty much if it's tantalizing and titillating, and if it's good art, then it fits," Mueller said.

"Il Gabinetto Segreto" features strong Columbus and Ohio participation, but also highlights work from national and international artists. While many of the artists were known to or even friends with Reeve and Mueller, some were artists whose work the pair discovered via social media, and were "cold-called" to solicit their participation.

"We felt it was important to have international representation," Reeve said.

International artists include Marcus Deleo from El Salvador and Polish artist Aleksander Marek Korman, of whose work Reeve said he has been a fan for years. These two are among the curators' seven "headliners," a list that also includes Kate Morgan, Alan Cottrill, Randi Channel, Mandy Cook and Paul Richmond.

"We called friends whose work we love and respect, and contacted others we knew who do work on the theme," Reeve said, adding that securing the participation of these artists made it easier to approach others. He added that many of the artists he sought out had never worked in this genre previously.

"We knew we had a good selection of capable artists. Some had never done erotica before, but we wanted them to see what they might do in a show like this. It stretches an artist to delve into a theme they're less familiar with," he said. "When we told them that they would already be in, that they didn't have to qualify, most were on board right away. There were just a couple who either were unable to do the show or who couldn't connect with an idea."

"Also, by including artists who've never worked in erotica before, it gave us a crazy ton of variety in subject matter," Mueller said.

The wide-net approach resulted in a significant variety of mediums as well. Painting and photography are represented, but also sculpture (traditional and non-traditional), illustration, charcoal drawings, fabric art and more are represented - even video.

Not all of the work is strictly representational, Reeve said. Some of the work is more "esoteric in nature - shapes and how they're perceived."

"When you think of erotic art, your brain thinks sexual," Vanderelli said. "The artists that are part of this exhibit have contributed beautifully-rendered pieces, including abstract works that aren't necessarily representational."

As for the show's Italian title, "Il Gabinetto Segreto" translates to "The Secret Cabinet," which refers to actual structures that were built to house ancient erotic art uncovered in Rome and Pompeii that was deemed too pornographic for the general public. These shocking works were hidden, accessible only to men with status and money and not to the general public.

Reeve, Mueller and Vanderelli hope to dispel some of that exclusivity and also some of the uneasiness that often surrounds erotic art.

Most art shows have a theme, Reeve said, and erotica is "just another theme." (Still, because of the nature of the art, this show will be 18-and-up, Vanderelli said.)

"We want people in Columbus to be able to come see what this art is and to get people comfortable with it," Reeve said.

"We hope people will be excited to come and check it out," Mueller said. To that end, he added, opening night will feature "a little bit of a spectacle."

The Vanderelli Room

Opening reception,

7-10 p.m.

Saturday, July 30

218 McDowell St.,