• Goodbye Jan (woman with gun) by Jan Saudek

    Jan Saudek | Extraordinary Erotica

    Maybe today it's easy to succeed in the art of erotica, if by that for an artist, is meant to make an exhibition and find their name in the newspaper. But what really separates some artists from all...

    Maybe today it’s easy to succeed in the art of erotica, if by that for an artist, is meant to make an exhibition and find their name in the newspaper. But what really separates some artists from all others is the ability to be noticeable without being aware that they have achieved this level of recognition. Despite numerous painters, who are lovers of paintbrushes and tempera, there are the artists who have driven their passion towards the digital and photography. One of them, the rarest among all, is Jan Saudek, a renowned Czech photographer.

    “There are too many imitators – I do not want to show the way to anyone anymore.” – Jan Saudek

    Born in Prague in 1935, several years just before World War II, Saudek is forced to face the consequences that will follow only because of his origins. His father was Jewish and many of his relatives ended their lives in a concentration camp. Jan and his brother were also deported to the camp, separated from their father, who shared the same fate with their sons. All of them survive this period. Stuck between memories of murdered children, the sound of shots, a person’s last breaths and his dreams, Jan begins to explore the possibilities and the magic of photography. In 1950 he got his first camera, Kodak Baby Brownie. This was the beginning of the art war lead by Jan against the political system, his family and his lustful dreams.

    Hyperbole erotic photography by Jan Saudek
    Jan Saudek | Hyperbole

    To understand his art, you need to glance into the deepest and darkest parts of his being. He is like a house with many floors and windows, each one offering a different view. Jan Saudek is the second child in the family, and as he said, “he is predestined to spend all his life as No. 2.” Saudek yearned for physical love since his young years. He lost his virginity at 15, with a girl who was also a virgin. His life is filled with failed relationships, passionate relationships, ruined marriages and separation from his children. Saudek, like any conscious artist, has managed in his own way to fight against the military and the communist regime. Often, he had no opportunity to express his views through his works because they were banned. Travelling to the USA was the first step that led Jan to success. He explored all forms of art, but mostly focused on his unique life companion: photography.

    Jan Saudek has the courage that many of us dream of.

    Life experiences, passions and interests are transferred to the works of Jan Saudek. He creates paintings and photos that speak of: the beauty of life, childhood, dreams, desires and unfulfilled plans, human nature, body and nudity, love and hate, sexuality and sexual attraction, passion, sadism and masochism, domination, melancholy, depression and doubts, life and death, fantasies hidden in the human mind. The works of this extraordinary artist could be the new art genre that has not been named yet.

    Victory on the Sea by Jan Saudek
    Jan Saudek | Victory on the Sea (1993)

    Eroticism in the works of this Czech genius is shown through human body and nudity. Jan Saudek has the courage that many of us dream of. Through his photographs, he depicts the female body the way it is, no uniformity, no stereotypes or rules. The female body is presented as a figure of femininity. Sex, penetration, defloration and making love are not taboo for Jan Saudek. Rather, he revives these moments by putting emphasis on the most intimate parts of the human imagination. What other people were seeing as prohibited, incompatible and kitsch – Jan Saudek has used it as the foundation of his art. In the late seventies, his black and white images gain a new dimension; Saudek began to use techniques, which included color, tinting and hand painting.  Using bold colors, Saudek reaches climax in displaying his individuality. His works not only depict nudity; they themselves are nudity. They are honest, open, without fear or embarrassment to show what lies in the mind and soul of an artist or a simple man. Many of the models in the pictures were his wives, girlfriends, lovers, and children.

    Who Cares nude photography by Jan Saudek
    Jan Saudek | Who Cares (1987)

    The representation of women and the female body is easily noticeable in Saudek’s photographs. He exalts the naked body of a woman in a sophisticated, erotic way. Often it can be aggressive, even grotesque. The female sex organ, its utilization or purity is shown with unprecedented passion. Some of his photos show details of masochism and sadism, sexual domination of masculinity that owns the female body – all this without the intention to harm the woman. Rather, he loves all women beings through his sincere art. The male body is also represented. It is solid, tight and good-looking. The man in the work of Saudek adores the woman; he is experiencing sexual delirium, he enters into an unknown world of sexual fantasy and lust.

    The mandolina lesson colored photograph by Jan Saudek
    Jan Saudek | The Mandolina Lesson (1994)

    Other detail that must not be missed is the vacant room (chambre libre) that Jan uses when making portraits and expressions of his dreams, capturing the moment of imaginativeness. The room is empty; there is no furniture, only details and a model. Often, the room would have cloudy walls that take one’s mind to the farthest dreams using colorful carpet, skulls, cradles, sex toys, artworks, mirrors and props.

    Saudek gives you a peek into his genius mind, and from his life experience brings us controversial beauty through erotica.

    AT, (2015)

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  • Robert Mapplethorpe | Master of Provocative Nude Photography

    Robert Mapplethorpe Even during his earliest training as an artist, Mapplethorpe sought his own unique expression. During his time as a student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York,...

    Robert Mapplethorpe

    Robert Mapplethorpe

    Even during his earliest training as an artist, Mapplethorpe sought his own unique expression. During his time as a student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, Mapplethorpe built on the cutting-edge approaches of 20th century icons such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns by focusing on mixed media compositions. It was his acquisition of a Polaroid camera in 1970, however, that truly changed his approach completely. At first he saw photographs as a means to produce what he called “more honest” collages, but soon, as his finesse in the medium progressed, Mapplethorpe pursued photography as his main medium.ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE | Maybelle

    ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE | Maybelle

    Though some of his initial series were commercial commissions, when shooting for himself Mapplethorpe most often focused his lens on the people that surrounded him: friends, fellow artists, and associates from the S&M underground. It was this more covert culture that came to dominate his artistic oeuvre. His aim in his imagery was not to exaggerate the erotic content. On the contrary, he saw his images as chronicling an under-documented aspect of American culture. “I don’t like the word shocking,” Mapplethorpe mentioned in an ARTnews interview in 1988 when discussing his images, “I’m looking for the unexpected.” He showcases this unexpected aspect in the way in which he crops his compositions.

    ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE | MODEL: LYDIA
    ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE | MODEL: LYDIA

     

    In most frames we are not given an entire figure but rather just one of its tantalizing tidbits. On the one hand, such cropping can be seen as teasing the viewer, leaving him or her to imagine the remainder of the figure. On the other hand, this cropping creates a visual distance, or disconnect, that encourages the viewer not to idolize the model as a sex object but rather celebrate the sensual landscape of the body one frame at a time.

    One of Mapplethorpe’s most striking series of nude female photographs was shot in the early 1980s. With his prominence as a photographer secured, Mapplethorpe used World Women’s Bodybuilding Champion Lisa Lyon as his muse. In this series, Mapplethorpe conjured intimate images that on the one hand played with the provocative, but on the other, celebrated the classical components of form and proportion. The result was a compelling compendium of images that showcased both the beauty of the female form and the artful eye of Mapplethorpe himself.

    It was shortly after this series that Mapplethorpe’s health began to decline: 1986 brought the revelation that he was suffering from AIDS. He died three years later at the age of 43, and yet his status was already secured as one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century. This status is still secure today, as Mapplethorpe’s images are continuously recognized for their artful beauty.

    AC, Chicago (2015)

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  • Madonna | Erotic Years

    Taking the 80s by storm, Madonna stands as a legendary sex symbol who truly revolutionized the social culture of her decade. Embracing sex and rebellion as the cornerstones of her image, she fearlessly...

    Taking the 80s by storm, Madonna stands as a legendary sex symbol who truly revolutionized the social culture of her decade. Embracing sex and rebellion as the cornerstones of her image, she fearlessly bashed conservative family values, leading an age of sexual liberation and free expression. With her risqué performances and clothes, she standardized a whole new level of provocation, carving her place as the queen of pop, and most importantly, the icon who empowered women to embrace their sexuality and social autonomy.

    Madonna was a leader of a revolution that forever influenced the way we perceive erotic art. Through her sexy photos, she became a sign of free expression, showing the world that provocative art is more than just a feast for the eyes; it’s a symbol of empowerment and unbridled energy. In turn, Madonna’s exhibitionism expressed a clear agenda: Why merely shock people when you can lead a revolution?

    Madonna for Vogue Italia by Steven Meisel in 1991
    Steven Meisel | Madonna for Vogue Italia (1991)

    Madonna made this agenda clear in 1985 when she posed topless for Playboy in collaboration with the photographer, Bill Stone. In these monochromatic photos, she poses full-frontal with unshaved privates and underarms, indicating a trendy bohemian attitude toward her nakedness.

    Madonna underarms by photographer Bill Stone in 1985
    Bill Stone | Madonna (1985)

    The plain backdrop—instead of the standard glamorous background, enhances this effect, Madonna is posing within commonplace settings in most of the photos. Her simplicity and bluntness indicates a genuine, unembellished ownership over her body, producing an eroticism that is both real and attainable.

    Madonna by photographer Steven Meisel in 1992
    Steven Meisel | Madonna (1992)

    However, Madonna’s photos were perceived as lewd and distasteful, provoking a surge of public controversy surrounding her image as both a pop star and role model. Nevertheless, Madonna’s full-on nudity showed a rich confidence and a willingness to confront the conservative values of her era.

     

    The authenticity and openness of her eroticism demonstrated self-approval and true liberation. In turn, she stripped away the shame and indignity that was commonly associated with erotic photography and introduced a rich and meaningful revival of this genre.

    Madonna photographed by Steven Meisel in 1992
    Steven Meisel | Madonna (1992)

    As her sexual identity matured, she continued to push the intensity of her erotic art. On October 21, 1992, she released “Sex,” a coffee table book filled with soft-core pornographic photographs. Shot by Steven Meisel Studio, the pictures carried a sadomasochistic nature, depicting Madonna in various bondage-related poses and interactions. Every aspect of the scene represented lawlessness and youth: her untidy bleached hair, the rope and cuff restraints, and the overall explicitness of the act.

    Madonna was dubbed “The Queen of obscene.”

    Traditionalists and moralists believed she had gone too far, while her fans shared mixed reactions – some bewildered, some amazed and some inspired. But most importantly, these antics begged the question: why?

    At the heart of these photographs, we’re not merely seeing an aimless sensationalist at work, but rather something more powerful. She unleashes an inner ferocity that is inherent in all of us, but often suppressed. As a result, her photos not only bash the squeamish mainstream views of her time, but also invite people to welcome sexuality with new eyes.

    STEVEN MEISEL | MADONNA (1992)
    STEVEN MEISEL | MADONNA (1992)

    Despite all the scandal surrounding Madonna’s eroticism, there really was a method to her antics. As the ringleader of modern sexuality through the 80s, Madonna’s exploits can be viewed as a demonstration of empowerment. Her naughty trademark and explicit nudity was a pathway to a new age of women and culture.

    RE, Toronto (2015)

     

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