The Glamour and the Grit


100 Food Porn, 1989-90, Enamel on Metal

The Brooklyn Museum is currently hosting a stellar retrospective exhibition for Marilyn Minter, the ground breaking artist who became infamous for her provocative series 100 Food Porn which debuted at the Simon Watson gallery in New York City in 1989.


Spill, 1977, Oil on Canvas

But nearly two decades before this seminal show and the social controversy that followed, Ms. Minter had been forging a steady path of heady work grounded in the conceptual similarities of, and wry commentary on, the intersection between domestic activity and sexual activity, placing them both on equal and powerful footing in the world of womanhood. With photorealistic painting she drew parallels between the two and revealed a subtext that gave the works a far deeper meaning beyond the canvas.

Her work would continue on from this theme to the study of the beauty industry in the United States, both illuminating the insatiable desire and drive for glamour juxtaposed against the danger this imposes on body image through the onslaught of unattainable qualities one finds in fashion imagery, most notably seen with the advent of Photoshop where pictures are manipulated to such perfection they almost become inhuman. (And in an interesting twist of irony, the fashion and beauty industries commissioned her for a number of campaigns featuring her signature artistic style of the time.)


Armpit, 2006, Chromogenic Print

It is the murky in-between state where Ms. Minter mines her most intriguing and awe inspiring mural paintings. Capturing intense close-ups of women in makeup, she reveals what Photoshop left behind—an errant eyebrow hair, ripe pimple, unhidden freckle or chipped toe nail varnish. Showing the underside is both confirmation of our humanity and a humble offering that even glamour has its grain of grit.


Blue Poles, 2007, Enamel on Metal

Her painting method is painstaking and fastidious. Working with 1 Shot’s Lettering Enamel sign paint as her only medium (Proper Purple is her favorite), she creates lush, saturated color combinations and layers the paint with efficient exactitude with the final layer applied literally by hand with a single fingertip.


Pop Rocks, 2009, Enamel on Metal


Orange Crush, 2009, Enamel on Metal

The work of Marilyn Minter is a glimpse revealing that, indeed, not all is perfect (nor should it be). And it is in this candid imperfection that she attains what comes closest to true perfection.

This exhibition is fantastic in both its comprehensive scope and sheer beauty of the curated works. The show resonates with a clear articulation of theme and satisfies the appetite both visual and intellectual while highlighting an artist who continues to surprise, and in some cases repulse, viewers with her unabashed perspective on society and culture.

See Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty at Brooklyn Museum through April 2, 2017.


Rouge Baiser, 1994, Enamel on Metal