Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Carpet Matches the Drapes

This was the pinnacle in the recent Schiele retrospective at Neue Galerie. We get all of the merits of the artist: direct sexuality, structural yet seductive line, and feverish color. The piece is called "Girl with Black Hair," but it could be "Vagina."

The face peers out from a black nest, like labia protruding from a bush. The torso is a bulging shaft, like a hard-on - compare to Munch's "Madonna," described here a week ago. A tangle of overlapping vaginas occupy the remaining composition.

The black vagina, like a gaping laceration, stretches across the drawing, a waving flag or barbed claw reaching out. A white vagina reverses its black counterpart; like a vaginal yin and yang. Beneath this is the vaginal window, the meta-vagina, which spreads open to unveil the vagina proper, enshrouded in black curls. It is the apex of a three-hole arrangement, a triangle, supported by the two black holes at either side.

Schiele loads the drawing with sexual imagery, but stumbles into the typically male mistake of reducing the vagina to a hole or slit, as if it's a wound. They overlook the structural and external complexities. Could a man have painted a blooming, complex O'Keefe flower? Probably not, unless he studied gynecology.

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