The Sundaram Tagore Gallery presents Michael Petry's first New York one-man show, The Milky Way and Other Fairy Tales. The Milky Way, a major new installation, features a spiral galaxy of white glass testicles suspended in the space, centered on Petry's own anatomy, the others at heights describing a 45 degree plane from that point. The hand blown lead crystal orbs were produced at the Royal College of Art where Petry lectures. Viewers can enter the space between the objects. The installation investigates scientific knowledge (shown as flawed, as it is based on a human template), taste (shown as ironic, as the objects are materially valuable and desirable) and dominant sexual histories (which are challenged, as the "conquest" of the galaxy is modeled on a same sex lover).
Petry also presents a suite of new studio paintings. Each work consists of a single colored full cowhide embroidered with freshwater pearls. The sewn patterns are taken from 'money shots' in gay pornographic films. They represent images of men who take bodily pleasure from one another. The scale of measurement for the viewer (or one handed reader) is the evidence of the male orgasm, white semen on tanned flesh. Ejaculate is proof of the fiction, the contract signed sealed and finally delivered. Historically pearls depicted in paintings refer to the virginity or purity of the wearer, as with depictions of Queen Elizabeth (the Virgin Queen). In Christian mythology, Veronica's Veil (a handkerchief) is claimed to have become impregnated with Christ's image. In Petry's new works, the title of each painting is that of the film in which the cum shots featured, while the color of each hide relates to gay hanky codes. These hankies indicate sexual fetishes and whether the wearer prefers the dominant (worn in the left back pocket) or the passive (right hand back pocket) role. A red hanky implies fisting, yellow indicates a liking for urine, and so on. Yet the images remain visually abstract and can be read as maps, or even constellations of stars.
Petry, Co Director of London's Museum of Installation has widely exhibited in Europe including works at the Venice Biennale, Ornamenta, and a major commission for The German National Gallery, London's prestigious South London Gallery, and the Rice Art Gallery (Rice University, Houston). He is the co-author of the milestone book Installation Art (Smithsonian), and the recent Installation in the New Millennium (Thames & Hudson). He has also written Abstract Eroticism and A Thing of Beauty is for Academy Editions, and Artmedia has produced a monograph on his work The Trouble with Michael. Petry is also curating Mad About the Boy: 20th Century Male Same Sex Lovers in the Visual Arts, for the Walsall Art Gallery (May 2004), which will be the first exhaustive, academic look at the topic.
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