In the age of internet porn, the new Taschen Gallery exhibit Bizarre Life – The Art of Elmer Batters and Eric Stanton is like the Rosetta Stone of fetish sex in media.
Pioneering photographer Elmer Batters and illustrator Eric Stanton helped break down taboos and change our view on sex and some of its kinkier variants. Over 200 images created by the two prolific producers of fetish art, who have never had their work presented together before, is currently on display at the West Hollywood gallery. Curated by Dian Hanson and Benedikt Taschen, in collaboration with Richard Perez, this is only the gallery’s second exhibit following It’s Just a Shot Away: The Rolling Stones in Photographs which opened the space in December last year.
For Elmer Batters (1919-1997), known as the “Dean of Leg Art”, his sexual and artistic fixation was centered around women’s lower limbs, which he, as a young sailor in the Navy, quickly learned were not the female body parts his shipmates were most excited about. He came back from World War II and started taking photographs of women, but not the breast-focused pin-up images that had adorned the inside of his submarine. Instead he photographed women in their stockings. Even though his work was not illegal he suffered great difficulties as an artist in the ’60s simply due to the area of the female anatomy he wanted to look at most. Batters even went so far as to say “I felt that people saw me as un-American for not mooning over large mammaries.”
Eric Stanton (1926-1999), also known as “The Rembrandt of Pop Culture”, started drawing “fighting girls” serials for the infamous Irving Klaw when he returned from the war. He spent the next 50 years drawing serial stories and pulp paperback covers. While working in the pop fetish world Stanton had his own artistic endeavors, including the Face Sitting Suite on display in Bizarre Life.
In these works Stanton takes existing photographs of naked women and adds illustrations of men underneath them. “A woman has to be strong,” his motto goes. “The bigger the better.” In some of the images the man is simply pinned under the woman, in others it looks as if the woman is forcing the man to perform oral sex. In some she is even attacking him or urinating on his face.
Bizarre Life – The Art of Elmer Batters and Eric Stanton at the Taschen Gallery in West Hollywood is open through May 24. Admission is free.