Review: A loquacious “Race Sex Religion Politics…what not to talk about” at Emory’s Visual Arts Gallery

BY CATHERINE FOX | Mar 31, 2011 (Read the whole article at ArtsCriticaATL)
Emory University’s Visual Arts Gallery hosts one of the more bracing exhibitions in town. “Race Sex Politics Religion…What not to talk about” does a lot of talking, in language resonant, pained, seductive, respectful, deadpan, confrontational and occasionally silly and hermetic. (Through April 16)


Riis conveys the view that what you do behind those doors is your own business in the most elegant and disarming manner in “Blue Shunga Coat.” The hand-woven coat, with its Asian shape, is a favored form in Riis’s oeuvre. This one is a multi-layered affair each woven in a different, gorgeous shade of blue. Is the color symbolic? Shunga, after all, refers to a tradition of Japanese erotica, which equably described all manner of couplings and practices.

Riis has woven a pair of female breasts on the outer coat, a witty reversal of the exhibitionist’s maneuver. He wove images of various embraces on successive layers. By requiring the viewer to lift back the flaps to see those images, whose round shape suggest a key-hole view, Riis impishly implicates us as voyeurs. Exquisitely made and creatively conceived, it is one of the show’s high points.

The project is a paragon of diversity — from the race, gender, sexuality and age of the participating artists to the aesthetics of the artwork — to a point. That is to say, the positions expressed here are predictably left, liberal, open-minded, or whatever you want to call it. I would suspect that the majority of the audience hails from this side of the national divide as well. A more radical exhibit would express the opposite point of view, or bring the two together to duke it out. That said, I have no if there even is such a thing as contemporary art that inveighs against homosexuality, labor, blasphemy, liberalism and so on. I’m just saying that, as strong as the show is, it’s still a closed loop.

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