Sex Work

Betty Tompkins

Galerie Andrea Caratsch, S4

Betty Tompkins with Fuck painting ♯6 and ♯5, Ellensburg, Washington, 1973

Betty Tompkins with Fuck Painting ♯6 and ♯5, Ellensburg, Washington, 1973

In 1969 Betty Tompkins started painting her first group of monumental, photorealistic and detailed images of sexual intercourse. Since then, Tompkins’ unashamed approach to female desire and sexually explicit imagery have informed her main body of work, qualifying her as a key protagonist in the development of a liberated feminist discourse.

Galerie Andrea Caratsch presents two of the historical ‘Fuck Paintings’ – the series of nine works painted between 1969 and 1974 – together with an important rubber stamp work, and two later paintings inspired by Courbet’s The Origin of the World (1866). Tompkins’ photorealistic black-and-white scenes, cropped and enlarged from pornographic magazines, remain as shocking today as they were when they were created. Rejected at the time not only by prudish institutions and the male-dominated art world, but also by the mainstream feminist movement – which regarded pornography as a vulgar extension of patriarchy – Tompkins’ work has been marginalized for more than 30 years. Only recently, art critics and museum shows have helped to establish the ground-breaking role of Tompkins’s practice in representing sexually explicit imagery from a woman’s perspective, thus reversing the monopoly of the male gaze.

Betty Tompkins (Born 1945, Washington; lives and works in New York) Betty Tompkins moved to New York in 1969. Her earliest group of paintings, made between 1969 and 1974, were shown for the first time in 2002 at the Mitchell Algus Gallery in New York. Tompkins’ work was shown at the Lyon Biennale in 2003, following which her first intercourse painting Fuck Painting #1 entered the collection of the Centre Pompidou – Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris. Most recently the artist’s paintings have been included in ‘Black Sheep Feminism: the Art of Sexual Politics’ (2016) at Dallas Contemporary, curated by Alison M. Gingeras.