Sex Work

Marilyn Minter

Baldwin Gallery, Regen Projects and Salon 94, S6


Marilyn Minter, Flurry, 1994. Enamel on metal 48 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Salon 94, Regen Projects and Baldwin Gallery.

Marilyn Minter, Flurry, 1994. Enamel on metal 48 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Salon 94, Regen Projects and Baldwin Gallery.

‘I think my paintings have less to do with so-called porn and more to do with freedom.’ – Marilyn Minter, 2017

For more than three decades Marilyn Minter has explored what she calls the ‘pathology of glamour’.  Closing in tight on her subjects – whether it is a lipsticked mouth engaged in a sex act, or an eye dripping with makeup – she subverts our notions of desire. An early advocate for women’s reclamation of their own imagery and sexual agency, Minter tackles the trappings of gender, its rites and representation.

On view at Frieze, the ‘Porn Grid’ series was highly criticized in the press and among Minter’s peers when first  shown at Max Protetch (New York) in 1992. It was taboo for women to own sexual imagery for their own pleasure. Three decades later, in an age of extreme digital retouching and internet porn, a Playboy magazine commission inspired Minter to revisit pornography as a subject.  She chose to photograph the model’s pubic hair ‘au naturel.’  While the magazine rejected her ‘bush’ editorial, Fulton Ryder stepped up to publish Plush, which sold out within days of its release. 

Featured in Sex Work is Ginger (2016), a steamy painting where a woman poses frontally, as an empowered object of desire. Placing a frosty pane of glass as a veil between the model and the camera, Minter then re-photographed her models, to make the source images for a new series of ‘bather’ paintings. Thus obscured, the colours of flushed, dewy skin are illuminated. In this way, Minter’s paintings reveal intimate moments from women’s private lives.

Marilyn Minter (Born 1948, Shreveport; lives and works in New York) Marilyn Minter has exhibited internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the 2006 Whitney Biennial, New York; and ‘Pretty/Dirty’ (2014-17) a retrospective that toured the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, MCA Denver, the Orange County Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, New York. The exhibition catalogue included contributions by Bill Arning, Eileen Myles, Jenni Sorkin, and Neville Wakefield among others.