You call this art? Where’s the dung?

The Brooklyn Paper
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So this is what all the fuss was about? That art show that got banned by the Parks Department because it was “inappropri­ate” for children and veterans opened late last week in DUMBO — and I was first on line.

Anything inappropriate for kids and killers — that’s good enough for me.

Of course, nothing could match the good old days of controversial art — like back at the turn of the century, when Rudy Giuliani tried to shut down the Brooklyn Museum because some artist put a few pieces of elephant dung and some cutouts from porno mags on a painting of the Virgin Mary.

I thought the grand dame looked great.

Compared to that, the Brooklyn College student art show, Plan B, is tame. There are plenty of portraits of smiling people, lots of shapeless sculptures that look like pieces of a sci-fi set, plenty of abstract paintings and even a really really big office chair.

On opening night, I even saw a guy in a suit writing a check to one of the artists — an indication that not everyone thought the show was “inappropri­ate.”

But the real good news is that there are plenty of pieces that rise to the level of good old dirty art.

Take the masturbating hand sculpture that Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel called “inappropri­ate.” Yes, it is a sculpture of a hand gripping a penis. Yes, the penis is erect. But the backlit sculpture, like the three others in Augusto Marin’s series, is covered in a gauzy cloth that makes it resemble a religious icon like the Shroud of Turin. Only a cultural boor (paging Herr Spiegel?) could fail to see the quality of the work or ignore the point Marin is trying to make about the perpetual clash between the “sacred” and the “profane.”

So much had been written about Carl James Ferrero’s painting about Dick Cheney in a homosexual clinch that I was almost disappointed when I finally saw it.

Yeah, it’s good art, I guess; Ferrero has a nifty watercolor style that contrasts with the visceral texts that run alongside the images.

What bothered me is that there wasn’t really anything controversial about the “Dick Cheney” painting. The gay affair mentioned in the text has nothing to do with the vice president, but centers around a man who uses the screen name “Dick Cheney” as he trolls for dates. That’s about as controversial as shooting a hunting partner.

Much better is another of Ferrero’s watercolors, this one a recounting of a different gay coupling. Although it starts with one man asking the other to urinate on him, it ends with a universal message. “How much did this place cost?” the urinator wonders as he looks around his partner’s apartment.

To me, that’s great art. I haven’t urinated on anyone since I was 3, but I do spend a lot of time wondering what people’s apartments cost.

Plan B runs through June 16 at 70 Washington St. in DUMBO. Free.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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