Marc Dennis’ photorealistic paintings seem not so much to appropriate or impersonate the images that litter smut magazines as to imitate them. Women’s naked bodies, in poses straight out of Hustler, are displayed against backgrounds that are at first somewhat jarring; one woman shoves her breasts out of her tiny tank top in front of a Sistine Chapel mural, while another is featured from behind on her knees against a nighttime cityscape, and one stands next to a dog in a sort of twisted family portrait. The majority of the paintings, however, simply feature naked women spread on beds in hotel rooms, with tacky bedspreads and trashy poses so that Dennis might as well have been staging a pornographic photo shoot while he composed them. There’s some sense that Dennis is trying to provoke an affective response, however visceral, as testament to what the artist statement calls the power the women in the images know their bodies have. However, as graphic as the paintings are, they ultimately don’t shock or even provoke simply because they don’t make use of the images in any new aesthetic or rhetorical way, and there’s no obvious evidence that the artist is doing much more than profiteering from the old discourse surrounding female nudes and the relationship between pornography and art. (Monica Westin)
Through May 30 at Carl Hammer Gallery, 740 N. Wells.