Marilyn Minter got plenty of compliments on the opening of her new show, Paintings From The 80s, last week at Team Gallery. And she’s pretty sure they were sincere. "No one says, ‘Lousy show, bitch,’ at your opening," she deadpanned to me the day after her opening. "But you can tell by their enthusiasm when they do approach you. They really want to look you in the eye and say, ‘This is really important work. I’m glad it’s being seen.’" The exhibit revisits early work Minter constructed between 1986 and 1989, back when having high-profile clients like Madonna and Tom Ford was an unforeseen light at the end of the tunnel. Lest you think all things ’80s are démodé, on the night of the opening, the Soho space was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with a mixture of Minter’s former students, friends and contemporaries, as well as aesthetic luminaries like gallerist Bill Powers, his wife, the fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, and Minter’s agent, Salon 94 owner Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.
Rowley praised Minter’s avant-garde sensibilities, particularly in regard to the most provocative piece in the room, "Porn Grid," controversial in its time for its stark depiction of four money shots, complete with open mouths, breasts squeezed together, boners and glossy enamel semen. "I think Marilyn has always been way, way, way ahead of her time," the designer said.
Powers, who recently enjoyed the spotlight on Bravo’s reality-TV show Work of Art, felt the retrospective showed a part of Minter that was woefully unappreciated in its own time. "I like when people have little secret compartments in their professional life that they can go back and revisit and pull out these threads. You get a chance to see their more recent work by looking back at things that didn’t get the attention they deserved in real time."
Fellow painter and longtime Minter friend Michael Ballou recalled buying the source material for paintings like "Porn Grid." The two were both using trashy mags as photographic inspiration. "I was too embarrassed to buy the magazines, I was way too shy," he told me. "So we’d go in together."
All of this porn talk left me with one major question: Does Minter watch the stuff herself? Ballou, Rowley and Powers all kept mum on the subject. Minter wouldn’t comment directly on her porn habits, but said that she doesn’t use stimulating images to make her art. "I didn’t even use any images that turned me on," she said. "I wasn’t going to ruin them by making art out of them." Her general thesis on ladies who get flack for owning their sexuality: "I think women should make images for their own pleasure. Nobody has politically correct fantasies."