Dicking Around

Love, fantasy, and genitalia get the whimsical touch at 1300.

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I Heart Dick 1300 Gallery, 1300 West 78th Street Through March 13, 216-939-1300
For a show that flaunts the punchy title I Heart Dick, the latest exhibition at 1300 Gallery is closer to Jane Meets Dick. Touted by curator Victoria Semarjan as a celebration of the "power of the pussy" by "women who love men," the show consists mainly of suggestive words and double entendres set amid playful, often girlish images; the overall effect is that of curse words spewed by an adorable child.

Typical of the show's theme are the droll pieces of Maria Castro: a pair of three-dimensional sculptures constructed of wood and decorated in decoupage, titled "My Name Is Ken" and "Game of Pussy Likes." Ken is a middle-aged shop clerk, who's painted onto the surface of a wooden box. Unfortunately for Ken, his genital region consists of a hollowed-out circular void. To his right are three options -- each of them an image, with accompanying text -- with which viewers are encouraged to fill the vacant space: "Hot Rod!", "The Big Cigar!", and "Cock!" (in this case, the bird kind). Perhaps the cheeky options represent Ken's own fantasies; maybe they're intended to be those of the viewer. Either way, the viewer becomes objectifier in this seemingly harmless game.

"Game of Pussy Likes" depicts a coquettish kitten in garter belts faced with choices similar to Ken's, only rather than filling an anatomical void, Pussy coyly gets to pick her pleasure. The viewer again is invited to be part of the naughty game, and by the look on Pussy's face, it's clear she would choose the cock. But unlike Ken's euphemistic hot rods and stogies, Pussy finds a full-blown penis protruding from the bottom of her list. Together, the pieces are plenty bawdy, but well suited to the show's theme.

Far less outrageous is Frances Boyd-Barrett's "Bunny Love" triptych. Made of hand-drawn images incorporated into digital collage, the three wall-mounted pieces resemble a series of game boards, each inhabited by whimsical city-dwelling animals drawn in black and white. The stars are two bright pink bunnies, who maneuver amid skyscrapers, brownstones, shoe stores, and bookstores, never managing to connect. In the center piece, the bunnies meet at the center of their urban playground, removing their bunny heads to reveal a happy girl and boy inside. Boyd-Barrett's bunnies burst with joyful infatuation happily discovered on the middle ground. For all its appealing imagery, the piece is an innocently odd fit here.

Other works veer more toward the playful edginess Semarjan seemed to be seeking: A "poetry installation" by Jen Reeder, in which puffy felt letters spell out words along a wall, deals with the momentary gratification but ultimate futility of masturbation. An acrylic portrait by Martha Rich features a sexualized image of a man sporting psychedelic Day-Glo underwear; its title, oddly, is "Snuggles."

Despite some technical flaws, most of the pieces that make up I Heart Dick entertainingly straddle the line of fun and seriousness. And if the themes on display get no more than superficial treatment, at least the artists are unquestionably cocksure.

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